GLOBAL – The $33.1bn (€26.4bn) United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund (UNJSPF) is considering investing in alternative assets, says scheme director Chieko Okuda.

The fund currently has 62.3% allocated to equities, 28.3% invested in bonds, 4.1% in real estate and 5.3% allocated to short-term investments such as treasury and commercial paper.

“We may invest in alternatives, but we haven’t decided yet. Within this year we will have some kind of direction on whether to invest,” she told IPE in an interview.

“If we do decide to invest, we will first do research as to which kinds of alternative assets are most suitable for our scheme,” she added.

Okuda could not say what percentage of the scheme’s investment portfolio might be allocated to alternatives. But she said: “We certainly can’t start with a big percentage.”

The UNJSPF announced last week that it enjoyed a 4.8% return on investments for the first quarter ended 31 March 2006 – outperforming the new benchmark return of 4.4%.

This represents close to a $1.5bn increase from 31 December 2005 when the fund’s asset value stood at $31.6bn.

As of the end of March, the scheme had investments in 45 countries, seven international/regional institutions and 26 currencies.

This breaks down into Europe ($10.4bn), North America ($14.8bn), Asia-Pacific ($4.7bn), Middle East ($63m), Latin America ($536m) and Africa ($299m).

Commenting on the quarterly returns, Okuda said: “We have been okay so far. We have been achieving above the target level of 3.5% plus inflation.”

However, she expressed some concern about possible low returns from the equity and bond markets going forward.