Canada Pension Plan hit by strength of Canadian dollar

TORONTO (Reuters) - The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Canada’s biggest public pension plan, said it achieved a return of 0.7 percent on its investments in the latest quarter, with the strength of the Canadian dollar hurting its performance.

The CPPIB, which manages Canada’s national pension fund and invests on behalf of 20 million Canadians, said it ended the quarter to Sept. 30 with net assets of C$328.2 billion ($259.1 billion), compared with C$326.5 billion at the end of the previous quarter.

In an interview, Chief Executive Mark Machin said the fund had experienced a “solid” quarter, generating C$9 billion in net income before taking into account a C$6.7 billion impact from adverse currency movements.

“Our underlying investment performance was really robust. We’re not worried about the currency in the long-term,” he said.

The fund has diversified internationally, becoming one of the world’s biggest investors in infrastructure and real estate.

It is also a major global investor in equities and bonds, and derives the majority of its earnings from overseas.

The strength of the Canadian dollar, which hit its highest level in over two years in September, means that overseas earnings are not worth as much when they are converted back to the domestic currency.

The fund does not hedge against currency movements, saying that while they may impact its results in the short-term, it does not expect them to have a significant impact on its long-term performance.

Having warned in May that CPPIB was regularly loosing out in bidding wars for infrastructure assets because of intensifying competition, Machin said he was cheered by the fund reaching two major infrastructure deals during the quarter, investing in a U.S. power generator and a gas distribution business in Spain.

“For once we were not outbid. Both of those were satisfying to get done,” he said.

Machin said CPPIB was concerned by the status of talks to rework the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“It’s not a negligible risk that things don’t work out the way that we and Canada would like,” he said. “We want open capital markets, we want open trade and we think trade leads to better growth for everybody.”

Canadian pension plans on average achieved returns of 0.4 percent in the third quarter of 2017, according to research published by RBC Investor & Treasury Services on Wednesday.

Reporting by Matt Scuffham; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Dan Grebler