Ilmarinen, one of Finland’s largest pensions insurance companies, has reported a drop in third-quarter investment performance, with its January-to-September return falling back to 3.1%.

The nine-month return is down from the half-year return of 6.2% reported a few months ago, and lower than the 5.7% the company generated on assets between January and September 2014.

Reporting interim figures, Ilmarinen’s chief executive Timo Ritakallio said: “Even though the July to September period was challenging, particularly in the equity markets, the return in the first nine months of 2015 can still be considered reasonable.”

By asset class, listed equities returned 3.7% compared with 8% in the same period last year, fixed income produced 0.1% compared with 3.1% and real estate returned 4.3%, up slightly from 4.0%.

The third quarter of 2015 has been the weakest quarter in the equity markets for four years, it said.

Negative factors weighing on shares included worries about slowing economic growth in China and low interest rates.

“It is precisely for financial quarters such as this one that solvency buffers are needed,” Ritakallio said.

The company’s solvency capital dipped to €7.8bn at the end of September from €8bn at the same point last year, equivalent to 28.6% of technical provisions, compared with 30.3%.

The rest of the year will be uncertain from an investment perspective, according to Ilmarinen’s CIO Mikko Mursula.

He predicted international investors would scrutinise third-quarter corporate earnings for signs about the global outlook for growth.

Mursula said Ilmarinen would continue diversifying its real estate investments internationally, partly in an effort to compensate for weak demand in the Finnish rental market for commercial real estate.

More generally, property investments brought stability to the portfolio during turbulent times, he said.

“In a world of low interest rates, investors are forced to find an alternative to fixed income investments,” Mursula said, adding that this fact was not about to change.

Ilmarinen’s total investment assets grew to €35.2bn at the end of September from €34.1bn at the end of December 2014.