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ICI scheme puts E100m into emerging bonds

UK - The pension scheme of chemicals group ICI has switched £70m (E100m) from equities into emerging market bonds, asset manager Ashmore says.

Ashmore Investment Management said it has been awarded a £65m mandate in emerging market debt by the ICI Pension Fund and £5m by the ICI Specialty Chemicals Pension Fund.

It said: "These allocations roughly double ICI's exposure to emerging debt through Ashmore after initial allocations were made in 2003."

Ashmore quoted an ICI pension fund spokesman as saying: "Having moved 80% of our fund into investment grade bonds a few years ago, our big risk management focus now - in line with the recommendations of the Myners report - is to improve the diversification of the Fund's return-seeking assets.

"We believe that, by switching a further £65m from equities into emerging market bonds, we can reduce equity concentration risks whilst maintaining future expected returns for this section of the portfolio.

"We have chosen to make this additional investment via the Ashmore Fund of Funds because this route gives the manager the maximum discretion to seek value wherever they can find it and, equally important, to avoid any emerging market risks that they may feel are poorly rewarded."

ICI international benefits director David Birtwistle was not immediately available for direct comment. An Ashmore spokesman declined to say which manager had lost the equities cash.

Ashmore added that the mandates are being managed within Ashmore's fund of funds, which in turn invests in four underlying investment themes managed by Ashmore.

Mark Coombs, managing director at Ashmore, said: "We are delighted at this increment and particularly that the allocation has been made to the Fund of Funds.”

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