ITALY – Italian pension funds returned up to 4.5% in 2004, bringing the total value of assets to €8bn, according to Luigi Scimia, head of pension regulator Covip.

Scimia said in a statement that closed or corporate pension funds returned an average of 4.5%, while opened or industry-wide pension funds about 4.3%.

The combined take up rate is also up 3% compared to 2003, bringing total number to 1.4 million members.

The number of newly set up pension funds has reached 134 in 2004, while 2.8 million opted for an individual pension policy, known as PIP.

Scimia added that some closed pension funds had reached “significant proportions”, and that their size would grow further when the pension reform, passed last July, is implemented.

“The growth of closed pension funds will bring to a stage when pension services are offered competitively, paving the way for more and more subscriptions,” he added. The open–fund industry had “a year of consolidation”.

“For the pension system 2004 can be considered still as a transitional year,” Scimia observed.

But he added that while the pension industry waited for the implementation of the pension reform there was “no lack for positive signs either regarding the solidity of the pension funds or development prospects”.

Scimia also said he saw the prospect of regional pension funds positively. At the moment, the semi autonomous region Trentino Alto Adige is the only region moving towards a regional pension fund.

Scimia however, said he hoped that the constitutional reforms, aimed at introducing federalism, would not imply “ a disparity of treatments in the field of pension rights.”

Trentino is shortly due to change its laws to set up a pension fund, which should be called, “Fondo Parcheggio Tfr” and could cater for up to 30,000 workers such as the staff of Trentino’s self-employed professionals and public transport employees, who are not covered by collective contracts and therefore barred from joining a pension fund.