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CPPIB chief says foreign holdings helped investment return in latest quarter

TORONTO – The CPP Investment Board says the fund it manages for the Canada Pension Plan delivered a 4.5 per cent rate of return in the final three months of 2015, as investments outside of the country offset a decline in domestic equities.

The CPP Fund had $282.6 billion of assets as of Dec. 31, the end of CPPIB’s fiscal third quarter.

That was up from $272.9 billion at Sept. 30 and up from $238.8 billion at the end of December 2014.

The Canadian equity portion of its holdings, however, lost value over the same periods.

CPPIB’s Canadian equity portfolio — including both publicly traded and private investments — was worth $16.2 billion as of Dec. 31, down from $16.9 billion in the previous quarter and from $19.2 billion a year earlier.

CPPIB president and CEO Mark Wiseman said Canada — which currently represents only about one-fifth of the fund’s holdings — is more attractive now because of the low loonie but noted geographic diversification helps the CPP Fund’s results.

Among CPPIB’s notable recent moves was to join with two Ontario pension fund managers — Teachers and OMERS — to jointly buy a Chicago toll road through the purchase of Skyway Concession Co. for a total of US$2.8 billion.

“We are continuing to look for opportunities in Canada, both in traditional areas like public equities and private assets and also in areas like infrastructure,” Wiseman said.

“I suspect that a growing number of global institutional investors are taking the same view.”

Infrastructure investments have been a stated priority of the Trudeau Liberals, who replaced the Harper Conservatives in October, but Wiseman noted that the CPPIB is required to act at arms length of any federal, provincial or local government.

“Having said that, we do see Canada as an attractive place to invest. And we, like other global investors, will find attractive investments to make in Canada,” Wiseman said.

CPP Investment board says it had $12.3 billion in net investment income over the three months ended Dec. 31, offset by $2.6 billion in cash outflows to the Canada Pension Plan — following a seasonal pattern when CPP payments to retirees and other beneficiaries often exceed contributions from employers and employees at the end of a calendar year.

The CPP Investment Board invests surplus funds that aren’t immediately required to pay benefits owed by the Canada Pension Plan — a national program funded by contributions from employers and their employees.

However, due to the timing of deductions from paycheques, funds sometimes flow from the CPP Fund to the pension plan. For example, in its most recent quarter, the outflow from the fund to the pension plan was $2.6 billion — $300 million less than in the third quarter of fiscal 2014.

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Note to readers: RECASTS and UPDATES with comments from CPPIB CEO and added detail.