EUROPE - Market turbulence and its effect on the global economy has overshadowed pension fund performance in the past year, as results of Investment & Pensions Europe's Top 1000 Pension Funds survey 2008 shows assets of the largest schemes have risen, but the growth of pensions assets was limited to €3.7trn.

The downturn, which came less than five years after the end of the last market crisis, has both had a negative impact on returns and forced many pension funds to re-examine their asset allocation and solvency levels, results of the study indicate.

Full details of the research will be published next week with the September issue of IPE, andfigures show assets grew to €3.7trn over the year, up from the previous year's €3.5trn but a slower rate of increase than in recent years.

Last year's Top 1000 supplement found pension funds' assets had grown by 16.7% so the 5.7% growth reflects the market downturn caused by the credit crunch and shows strong inflows outweighed declines in investment portfolios over the past year.

For the first time, this year's supplement highlights the legislative and regulatory background that underpins the pensions systems of the countries examined and includes a report by the head of the OECD's private pensions unit, Juan Yermo, on the increasing efforts to better regulate and supervise private pensions as their role in the overall pensions landscape increases.

It also includes an assessment by Chris Verhaegen, secretary-general of the European Federation of Retirement Provision, of the challenges ahead for the European pensions industry and what the EFRP is doing to help meet them.

Trends emerging from the data suggest Europe's two mega funds are continuing to pull away from the others in terms of assets, as Norway's Government Pension Fund Global, - the Norwegian petroleum fund that has been deployed as a financing fund to underwrite the future state pension promise - maintained the lead it established the previous year over the previous long-standing champion, the Dutch civil service pension fund ABP.

At the other end of the scale, there is an increasing number of funds from east and central Europe creeping into the Top 1000 pension funds, formed as a result of a series of pension reforms throughout the region from the 1990s.

The Top 1000 supplement has been produced annually since 2000 and includes data on the assets under management of the top 750 continental European pension funds, including those in Ireland and Iceland, as well as the top 250 in the UK.

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