SWEDEN - The majority of the Swedish AP funds, the national buffer funds, showed above-benchmark returns for the first half of the year.

AP2 returned 5.8% for the first six months of the year, excluding costs, beating its benchmark by 0.5%, excluding alternative investment and costs.

Alternatives returned 8%, the best performing asset class, the fund said.

Assets rose to SEK227bn (€27.5bn), while costs remained low at just 0.08% of assets, it said.

Eva Halvarsson, chief executive, said she was especially pleased with the active performance of 0.5% of the portfolio, equivalent of almost SEK1bn, which was in line with the fund’s long-term, annual average return target of 5%.

Meanwhile, AP3 returned 4.6% for the first six months, excluding costs, while assets rose to SEK222.3bn.

Over the last 10 years, the fund has returned, on average, 5.5% per year, or 4.1% when adjusted for inflation.

Kerstin Hessius, chief executive, said the fund had a lower risk level in its portfolio compared with the past, partly due to the global debt problems affecting financial markets.

AP4 also returned 5.8% over the period, beating the benchmark’s 0.8%, while assets increased to just over SEK220bn.

Costs also remained low at 0.10% of assets, the fund said.

Over the past 10 years, the fund has returned an average 5.8% per year.

Inflation-adjusted returns over the period came to 4.4%, just below the target of 4.5% set by the board.

In other news, Länsförsäkringar, the Swedish insurance and pensions provider, has appointed Göran Laurén as CIO for its asset management division.

He replaces Gustav Karner, who left the company last year.

Karner later joined the Nobel Foundations to head up its asset management division.

Laurén has been working as acting CEO for the division and will also remain in this role.

Previously, he worked as CFO at finance company SBAB, as head of currency management at Svenska Finans and as a management and financial consultant at Treviljor.

Separately, the life company of Länsförsäkringar confirmed that it has been reducing its private equity holdings.

Following media reports of the firm selling its private equity portfolio, worth an estimated SEK12bn, the firm said in a statement that it has been reducing its unlisted holdings since July, but declined to comment further on media reports.

Since autumn 2011, Länsförsäkringar has been working to bolster its key numbers with numerous changes to its portfolio.

Jörgen Svensson, chief executive at the life company, said the changes would strengthen the company’s fundamentals and better enable it to meet the requirements of Solvency II in future.

Lastly, Storebrand Livsforsikring has appointed Geir Holmfren as managing director.

He has been with Storebrand since 1997 and is currently acting managing director in the company’s life arm.

Holmgren is chairman of the board at Norsk Pensjon, the national pensions portal, where Norwegians can get an overview of their pensions.

Storebrand Livsforsikring is the largest subsidiary in the Storebrand Group.