NETHERLANDS – Shell’s NLG29.5bn (e13.4bn) pension fund tumbled from the top of the performance lists for 1999 to become the worst performing Dutch pension scheme of last year, according to figures from the country’s VB and OPF occupational pension fund associations.

Topping the charts the previous year with a 28% return, Shell’s fund slumped to a performance of -3.7% for 2000.

While high equity exposure in falling markets may be to blame for the downturn, the NLG1bn pension plan of Billiton bedrijven still returned 2.7% with the same equity exposure as Shell (64%) and no high-yielding property investments, which account for 10% of Shell’s portfolio.
Billiton bedrijven comes out as the best performing fund over the last five years, with returns of 18.3%, having shifted its exposure in equity from 41% to 64% since 1996.

The best performing fund last year, however, was the NGL112m Textielreiniging, which returned 10.2% with a 64% bond exposure.
Dutch giant, the NGL331bn ABP fund, the largest pension scheme in Europe, finished the year with 3.2%.
Fellow mammoth, NLG116bn fund PGGM, returned 3.4% last year, with an asset mix of 30% in fixed income, 55% in equity and 15% in property.

According to research by performance measurer WM Company, Dutch funds returned an average of 2.6% in 2000, down from 16.3% in 1999.
The figure does not include the weighting of ABP and PGGM, which WM says would distort the average due to their size.
Property provided the funds with the highest returns at 18.9%, compared to 14.8% the previous year.
Direct property investments, again, showed better returns at 19.8%, compared to the 16.1% returns of property funds.

Equity returns, expectedly, fell below zero to –5.2%, a tremendous drop from the 1999 highs of 41.4%.
Dutch shares were the only equity class to show profit with 2.3% returns last year, down from 22.5% the year before. Other European stocks lost –0.7% and North American equity returned –0.8%.
Japanese stocks performed worst, falling to returns of –29.5%, compared to 113.3% the year before.
Emerging market shares followed the trend losing 27.3%, down from gaining 94.6% in 1999.

Bonds, on the other hand saved many funds from negative returns; international bonds gained 14.2%, while eurobonds returned 6.9% on average. In 1999, international bonds returned 10.4%, while Eurobonds lost 2.4%.
Average total fixed income returns were up from –0.4% to 7.8%.

During the rocky stock market ride last year, Dutch pension funds switched assets back from equity to fixed income, on December 29, 2000, the funds were 47% invested in fixed income and 41% in equity, compared to 43% and 47% respectively a year before.