AUSTRIA - Better investment returns in April have helped Austrian pensionskassen to turn their performance into positive figures for the first time this year.

The average return for the 19 pensionskassen, both multi-employer and company specific, had been -1.04% at the end of March, but it rose to +0.9% by the end of April.

“The experts in the pensionskassen have drawn their conclusions from the financial crisis and changed the asset allocation accordingly,” noted Fritz Janda, head of the association of pension funds in Austria FVPK.

“The second reason for the positive development is a slight easing of tensions on the markets and the investment environment is considerably better than in the fourth quarter 2008,” he added.

In the first quarter, pensionskassen had posted a return of -4.91% bringing the annual figure to -12.94% though detailed figures are not yet available on the funds’ asset allocation in the first quarter. (See earlier IPE story: Austrian funds average 13% loss)

At the end of 2008, the average equity quota pf pensionskassen stood at 25% compared with 35.4% in June 08, while the allocation to bonds was up to 72.7%  - having risen from 62.8% in 2007 - and exposure to real estate made up 2.28% of total assets compared with 1.76% in 2007.

In other matters, the subject of pension funds has meanwhile also entered EU election campaigning in Austria.

Hannes Swoboda, Social Democratic candidate for the European Parliament, has accused the European Union of “taking away” elderly people’s money by “recommending they rely on funds and not state pension provision for their retirement”.

“But on an unregulated, speculative market this is very uncertain - they erred at the expense of elderly people,” he argued.

He pledged he would ensure services such as pensions remain in the public domain should he be elected.