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Greater Manchester pension fund returns 7% despite hit on global bonds

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The £13.3bn (€17bn) Greater Manchester Pension Fund (GMPF) returned 7% over its last financial year, backed by strong returns in both public and private equity.

However, the local authority fund was held back by significant losses in its global bonds portfolio that included sovereign and corporate fixed income and inflation-linked bonds.

Despite a net growth in assets, the fund also saw its funding ratio, calculated on an actuarial basis, fall to 90.5%.

Councillor Kieran Quinn, chairman of the fund, said despite investment returns outperforming the actuary’s expectations, long-term interest rates made the funding situation difficult.

“The impact of the fall in yields on government bonds more than offset the investment gains through the adverse impact this has on the valuation of pension promises earned,” he said in the fund’s annual report.

Over the year to 31 March, the fund, the largest local government fund in England, fared well its 62% asset allocation to public equities, in particular its UK equities exposure.

The asset class returned more than 15%, above the fund’s benchmark.

Despite the fund’s making its best and worst returns in UK equities and index-linked global bonds, respectively, it still withdrew close to £300m from UK equities to finance increases in property and alternatives.

It also shifted allocations from cash and global corporate bonds to further hedge inflation exposure with index-linked global bonds.

GMPF made a close to 5% return on global equities and a near 12.3% return on property.

Its alternatives allocations, predominately made up of private equity and infrastructure, returned nearly 6%.

The fund committed to increase private equity by £100m per year, with annualised performance hitting 16.7%.

Infrastructure allocations are now set to increase by £75m a year, but the fund said, with only £98m currently invested in projects, its target allocation of 3% would still take several years.

Its 10% allocation to property is also set to increase as the fund continues to grow its direct holdings and the Greater Manchester Property Venture Fund (GMPVF).

The GMPVF aims to generate returns while supporting the fund’s local area, namely Manchester.

While taking stakes in a project around the city’s airport, and funding office developments and social housing, GMPF said it would continue to build a broad portfolio in the next three years.

The fund’s assumed liabilities grew by 3.2% over the year to £16.9bn, leaving the fund 90% funded.

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