SWEDEN - Three of the four Swedish national buffer funds saw returns and profits fall in the first half compared with the same period last year.

AP3, with assets of SEK208.6bn (€22.2bn), posted the best returns, with 1.9% after expenses, compared with 5.2% for first half last year.

AP2, with assets of SEK204.8bn, returned 1.2% for the first half against 6.3% for the same period last year, after expenses.

AP4, with assets of SEK196.2bn, also returned 1.2% after expenses, but had a sharper fall, having returned 7.8% in the first half last year.

Relative to their benchmarks, all three funds noted a relative return of 0.4% in the first half, with all asset classes outperforming their respective indices.

Kerstin Hessius, chief executive at AP3, said: "Uncertainty dominated the year, resulting in volatility in a number of asset markets.

"Global equities lost ground, but these falls were offset by the portfolio's currency and fixed income exposures."

Eva Halvarsson, chief executive at AP2, said: "AP2's portfolio, which continues to feature a high proportion of equities, has benefited from the favourable performance of the Swedish equities market.

"This trend has been sustained during the first six months of this year. The return generated on Swedish equities during the first half amounted to 7.2%, a 0.3% improvement against the benchmark index."

Halvarsson said that, in spite of the considerable turbulence of markets during the spring, the macroeconomic statistics presented by analysts had been bullish.

"This market volatility will continue through the autumn," she said.

"The net outflows from the pension system will also continue, for which we have adjusted our portfolio. We have a well-balanced portfolio and are well equipped to face the future."

Mats Andersson, chief executive at AP4, said: "We are pleased we can continue delivering a positive active return following our extensive work for change the fund carried out in 2007 and 2008.

"AP4 paid an absolute return of SEK 2.4bn for the first six months despite a slightly negative trend in stock markets as measured by global indices.

"The fund outperformed its benchmark index by 0.4 percentage points, thus increasing assets by almost SEK700m during the period."

All the funds also saw profits fall in the first half.

AP2's profits fell by more than three-quarters to SEK 2.5bn, compared with SEK10.9bn in the first half of last year.

AP3's profits fell by more than half to SEK 4bn against SEK9.4bn in the first half 2009, while AP4's profits were slashed to SEK2.4bn in the first half, compared with SEK12.7bn in the first six months last year.

As of 2009, the AP funds have made payments to the Swedish Social Insurance Agency to help finance a deficit in the pension system arising from pension disbursements exceeding paid-in pension contributions.

Hence, the funds often have a net outflow into the pension system, reducing the total capital depending on returns.

AP1 has yet to release its first-half numbers.