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Robeco seeks to become a 'truly responsible investor'

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  • Robeco seeks to become a 'truly responsible investor'

NETHERLANDS - Asset manager Robeco is planning to incorporate environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) principles into its entire €110bn portfolio, in a bid to achieve more sustainable returns as well as a better risk-return profile.

George Möller, executive chairman, said during the presentation of Robeco's annual figures that the firm will initially establish a responsible investment policy for its fixed income and equity funds' managers, the implementation of which must be completed in 2010.

But as part of a restructuring process to make the firm leaner, Robeco has slashed its 2008-bonuses by up to 50% and has made 250 staff redundant, in order to save €78m in salary costs in 2010.

The results presented by Möller showed the firm's assets under management fell last year by €35bn to €111bn, and asset management fees subsequently dropped, mainly because of declining markets, the executive chairman said, while stressing his company generated a net cash inflow of €600m.

Managed institutional assets, originating mainly from US investors, also decreased from €74bn to €60bn.

Robeco's net profit decreased by 15% to €171m, driven largely by a €237m-net result of the Diversified Trend Programme of its subsidiary Transtrend, a managed futures trader, he continued.

Robeco's fixed income duration fund Lux-o-rente, outperformed its benchmark by 5.3% to return 16.3%, while several equity strategies of Robeco Boston Partners also beat their respective benchmarks, according to Robeco.

In contrast, however, some of Robeco's investment funds, such as SAM Smart Energy Fund and Robeco Emerging Stars Equities, suffered losses of over 54%.

The company also revealed it had to write-off €53m of its asset-backed securities portfolio, as they have become increasingly illiquid, though Möller claimed Robeco had seen relative good performance thanks to the absence of a direct exposure to both US sub-prime investments or to the Madoff ponzi fraud.

"Moreover, we managed to get unscathed through the folding of investment bank Lehman Brothers, and also escaped liquidity problems with our money market funds," he pointed out.

Other developments unveiled yesterday include a joint venture with Chinese private equity firm TEDA, which is planning to establish a clean technology fund, to be fed by Chinese assets. According to Robeco's executive chair, TEDA expects to raise $100m (€75m) for this fund this year.

Robeco's executive chair, 62, is set to resign at the end of the summer while elsewhere in the meeting it was revealed Willem Buiter will become a member of the supervisory board as of 1 April. He is currently professor of the European political economics and political science at the London School of Economics economics professor at Amsterdam University.

At the same date, Bert Bruggink, chief finance officer at Rabobank, was appointed onto Robeco's supervisory board, succeeding Rik van Slingelandt, who will leave on 1 May.

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