NETHERLANDS - Progress, the Dutch pension fund of Unilever, said its assets declined by €26m to €3.967bn by the end of 2007.

Presenting its annual results for 2007, the fund today added its total investment return for 2007 is 3.7%, which according to the fund is a "sharp decrease compared to the total return in 2006 (9.6%)".

The decrease is fully attributable to the considerably lower return on its equities portfolio - 56% of its assets - which showed a total return of 1.7%. That said officials state Progress was not directly impacted by the credit crisis as it does not invest in collateralised debt obligations (CDOs).

Fixed income - representing 29% of the fund's assets - returned 2% while property (15% of assets) made 12.1%.

Progress said its financial position has improved since last year however, as its coverage ratio increased by nine percentage points to 165%, "mainly as a result of a decrease in liabilities because of the increased interest rate".

Pension liabilities for 2007 decreased by €153m to €2.402bn, while pension payments amounting to €160m.

The financial position to mid-March 2008 was 145%, despite the recent decline in the financial markets in the beginning of 2008.

The fund also stated it will again deliver full indexation for 2008.

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