Ilmarinen has blamed “nervous” and volatile markets for first-quarter losses of 1.4%, as it and other Finnish pension investors blamed concern over China for underwhelming returns.

The €35.8bn pensions mutual said its equity holdings returned -3.7% over the first three months of the year, achieving a lower return than either rival mutual Elo or provider Veritas, which saw listed holdings lose 3.5% and 2.4%, respectively.

All three providers cited China as a source for concern, with Ilmarinen chief executive Timo Ritakallio also noting the decline in commodities prices and the impact of the UK potentially leaving the European Union.

“Of the main equity markets,” Ritakallio said, “the US and emerging economies reached positive figures at the end of the quarter, while Europe and Japan remained clearly in negative territory.

“The geographical distribution of equities and shares thus had an exceptionally large impact on investment returns in the early part of the year.”

Property boost

Both Veritas and the €20.7bn Elo saw returns boosted by property holdings, with real estate both investors’ best-performing asset class over the first quarter.

Both investors said their property holdings returned 1.6%, while Ilmarinen saw its property assets return 0.7%, its second-best asset class behind a 4.9% return on alternatives.

Overall, Veritas and Elo returned -0.4% over the first quarter, with equity losses offset by returns from fixed income of 0.9% and 1.5%, respectively.

Satu Huber, chief executive at Elo, said the economic outlook, at least domestically, was set to improve and that the downturn suffered by Finland had “bottomed out”.

The returns seen by all three providers are also in line with those seen by Keva and Etera, with the former blaming a “very unsettled” equity market for returns it viewed as meagre.