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Railways scheme's buffers hit by losses

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NETHERLANDS - SPF, the large pension fund for the railways sector, lost 19.2% on investments last year, while its assets dropped from €12bn to €9.5bn and the cover fell to 121%.

Equity was the worst performing asset class, with returns of -41.2% after full currency hedging, the scheme reported.

Losses were also made on emerging market debt , which dropped 13.1%, while indirect property investments lost 26.3%, private equity returned -10.4% and global tactical asset allocation returned -16.5%, stated the pension fund in its annual figures.

A new 1% allocation to commodities also led to a loss of 39.4%, mainly as a result of the falling in oil price.

In contrast, there were positive returns of direct property (3.9%), fixed income (5.9%) and mortgages (3.2%) helped to cushion the blow, said SPF.

The scheme's cover ratio dropped from 189% to 121% by the end of 2008, but further deteriorating markets and decreasing long-term interest rates have now pushed its funding ratio to under 120%, creating a shortfall of its financial reserves.

Nevertheless, SPF decided to grant its 73,000 participants a 2%-indexation at the start of 2009.

The railways scheme has collective defined contribution arrangements, which are carried out by its provider SPF Beheer.

Elsewhere, SPOV, the €2bn scheme for public transport workers, has revealed it saw negative returns of 13.6% and a lost €400m in assets in 2008.

The pension fund saw its cover ratio drop to 104% by the end of March, requiring it to draw-up a short-term recovery plan for a funding shortfall.

SPOV's equity investments returned -41.1%, while its investments in direct property and fixed income showed positive yields of 2.8% and 6.1% respectively.

If you have any comments you would like to add to this or any other story, contact Julie Henderson on + 44 (0)20 7261 4602 or email julie.henderson@ipe.com

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