Business

CPPIB gets ‘significant uplift’ from global equity markets in latest quarter

TORONTO — The head of the country's biggest public pension fund says it benefited from "a significant uplift" from global stock markets during its most recent quarter and will be looking for buying opportunities if a recent retreat results in better pricing.

Mark Machin, chief executive of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, said the CPP Fund achieved "solid" returns during the first quarter of its 2017-18 financial year.

The fund earned 1.8 per cent, net of all costs, for the three-month period.

But investors can't assume markets will always go up and the CPPIB's strategy is to have a diverse portfolio that will hold its value over the long term. Short-term declines are seen as buying opportunities, Machin said in an interview Friday.

"We will look for things that dislocate below what we think are their fundamental valuations," he said.

Global stock markets have been rattled in recent days as the tensions between United States and North Korea have risen.

As for the prospect of a bigger sort of downturn, Machin said the plan does regular risk assessments, but it mostly relies on spreading out its investments to a variety of asset classes and geographic markets.

"You can't, obviously, protect against a really broad market downturn completely, but you can cushion that by diversification across markets that are going to be less impacted in a shock situation."

The CPP Fund's publicly traded equities were worth $126.9 billion at June 30, or 38.9 per cent of the total holdings.

It also invests in private equity, government bonds, credit investments, real estate, infrastructure and other assets. But CPPIB doesn't invest directly in gold — often seen as a protection against political or economic upheaval.

"We do invest in commodities, but we do not have any direct exposure in gold as a specific commodity," Machin said.

Neither does CPPIB engage in currency hedging.

The Toronto-based fund manager ended the quarter with $326.5 billion in net assets, up $9.8 billion from March 31 when CPPIB's 2017 financial year ended.

The CPPIB says its 10-year rate of return after accounting for expenses and inflation was 5.2 per cent.

The Chief Actuary of Canada estimates the fund can be sustainable for 75 years with an average rate of return of 3.9 per cent.

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