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* Equities drive pension fund's returns
* Assets total C$176.2 bln at year-end
TORONTO, Feb 27 (Reuters) - Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, which manages major pension plans in the mostly French-speaking Canadian province, said on Wednesday it generated a 9.6 percent return during 2012, helped by rallying equity markets in the second half of the year.
Montreal-based Caisse's net assets were C$176.2 billion ($171.63 billion) as of Dec 31, up from C$159 billion on Dec 31, 2011.
It said the increase was due to C$14.9 billion in net investment results and C$2.3 billion in net deposits.
Caisse, which restructured in 2009 after losing billions of dollars in the previous year, aims to focus its investments on those that foster growth in the French-speaking province.
The fund's new investments and commitments in Quebec totaled C$2.9 billion in 2012 and its assets in the province were C$47.1 billion, it said.
"Since the restructuring, we have generated a 10.7 percent annualized return despite an uncertain and volatile climate," Caisse Chief Executive Michael Sabia said in a statement.
Growth was largely driven by equities, which produced a 12.2 percent return, or C$8.8 billion in net investment results, versus a 3.9 percent return for fixed income.
As of Dec. 31, the equity class - both publicly-traded and private equity - made up 46.8 percent of the Caisse's total portfolio.