IRELAND - The average Irish managed pension fund returned 1.3% for the first quarter, giving a annual result between March 2006 and March 2007 to 8.7% - significantly lower than the 24.4% achieved a year earlier.

With the average equity exposure remaining at just over 77%, Irish managed pension funds were hit hard by last year's drop in returns on shares.

Among the worst performers were New Ireland and the Standard Bank of Ireland Asset Management (BIAM) fund both with a negative return of 0.1%

The BIAM Consensus fund reported a 1.6% positive return, placing it fifth in the ranking of the 24 funds.

Other consensus funds, which are passively managed with variable asset allocation based on the average of active fund weightings, did worse as Friends First and Canada Life/Sentanta saw their funds come sixth with 1.5% return.

The funds run by Hibernian and Irish Life Investment Management (ILIM) only made it to rank 13th with a 1.3% return.

According to statistics collected by Hewitt, the best performers were Allied Irish Bank Investment Management's (AIBIM) fund with a 2.3% return followed by Davy, formerly Aberdeen, returning 2.1%.

AIBIM's multi-manager fund only came 16th with a 1.1% return, equal to the other multi-manager fund in the survey run by Standard Life Investments.

Looking at the long-term investment horizon, the average Irish managed pension fund returned 13.7% over the last three years, 6.7% over the last five years, 9.3% over the last 10 years and 11% over the last 15 years.

Apart from the 77% equity exposure, the average fund held 12.4% in bonds, 4.4% in cash and 4.9% in real estate. Only Davy and Acorn Life invested in other alternative asset classes (10% and 5% respectively) while Davy was the second best performer among the funds, Acorn Life was ranked only 16th.