UPDATE 1-Canada's OPTrust looks to take advantage of volatility

Mon Mar 14, 2016 10:38am EDT
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* Net assets grew to C$18.4 billion from C$17.5 billion

* CEO sees opportunities as result of market volatility (Adds chief executive's comments)

By Matt Scuffham

TORONTO, March 14 (Reuters) - OPTrust, one of Canada's 10 biggest public pension funds, sees opportunities arising from global market volatility this year, its chief executive said on Monday after it reported an investment return of 8 percent for 2015.

The performance was lower than the 12 percent return OPTrust achieved in 2014 but ahead of the average return of 5.4 percent Canadian pension funds achieved in 2015, according to research by RBC Investor & Treasury Services.

Chief Executive Hugh O'Reilly said he expected market conditions to remain difficult in 2016, but noted that could present opportunities for long-term investors.

"We expect that we'll continue to see volatility on stock markets worldwide and the low interest rate environment will continue," he said in an interview with Reuters. "We may use our liquidity to take advantage of market distortions as they arise later in the year."

OPTrust, which administers the Ontario Public Service Employees Union Pension Plan, said its net assets had grown to C$18.4 billion at the end of 2015, compared with C$17.5 billion a year earlier, helping it maintain the net surplus position it has had since 2009.

OPTrust tweaked its investment strategy in 2015 to focus on maintaining its fully funded status against the backdrop of ongoing market volatility, economic uncertainty and persistent low interest rates. (Reporting by Matt Scuffham; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Dan Grebler)