NETHERLANDS – Stichting Shell Pensioenfonds, the €13.7bn scheme of the oil giant, made a 6.9% return on its hedge fund investments in 2004.

“On the hedge fund portfolio a return of almost seven percent was achieved,” the scheme said in a statement on its web site. Hedge funds, including currency hedging, account for 5.5% of its total portfolio, or €800m.

“The Shell Pension Fund invests solely in hedge funds that have what are termed ‘market-neutral’ strategies,” it said.

The scheme’s investments overall returned 16.1% last year. “For the NL Shell Pension Fund, 2004 was a very good investment year,” it said. Equities returned 15.7% and fixed income returned 16.5%.

The equities portfolio is worth €9.6bn while fixed income is worth €3.7bn.

It added that its funding ratio (on the basis of an actuarial interest rate of four percent) rose from 127% at year-end 2003 to 135% at year-end 2004. This was despite an increase in liabilities of more than 6.5%.

The scheme said that in 2003 pensions in payment had been increased by a temporary 2.5% cost-of-living allowance for the duration of one year.

This temporary cost-of-living allowance was continued indefinitely as from July 1 2004. In addition, pensions were increased by a 0.6% cost-of-living allowance as from July 1 2004.

Pension contributions were kept at the same level. In 2004 the employer’s contribution was 20% of salary payments and the employees’ contribution was 8% of salaries above the €69,510 contribution threshold.

The fund's annual report will be published in mid-April.