GERMANY - German industry schemes known as Versorgungswerke have reported a slight decline in the annual return on their investments owing to low interest-rates.

According to ABV, the Cologne-based association for the Versorgungswerke, the funds had an average return of 5.28% in 2004, down from 6.05% in 2003.

“The low interest level last year made itself felt among the Versorgungswerke,” commented Michael Jung, ABV’s managing director.

Versorgungswerke, like other German pension funds, are heavily invested in fixed income. ABV said the funds increased their exposure to the asset class to 69.4% in 2004 from 66.45% in 2003.

At the same time, the funds reduced their equity exposure to 14.9% in 2004 from 15.9% in 2003, ABV said. Real estate accounted for 9.4%, mortgages and other receivables 4.3%, money-market funds 1.5% and other asset classes 0.5%.

ABV also said the funds increased their total assets to €88.5bn in 2004 from €82.4bn in 2003. “The increase was more or less consistent with those of the past few years,” said Jung.

All told, ABV’s members provide 677,433 professional employees with a pension, which is in lieu of the government pension they would otherwise get.

Almost half of these employees (46.5%) are physicians. The second-largest group are lawyers and tax advisers (19%), followed by architects (12.85%), dentists (9.5%), pharmacists (8.9%) and veterinarians (3.2%).

According to ABV, the average monthly contribution from these employees is currently €709 and the average monthly benefit €1902.

Separately, ABV said it had appointed Michael Prossliner as its chief lobbyist in Brussels and Stefan Strunk as its chief lobbyist in Berlin. Both have worked for the ABV for several years.