March 30, 2016 / 2:33 PM / in a year

Ontario Teachers' pension plan assessing 'Brexit' risk daily

TORONTO (Reuters) - The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, one of the biggest investors in British infrastructure, said it is assessing daily the risk that Britain will leave the European Union and is considering hedging the currency risk on its investments.

Ontario Teachers’, Canada’s third-largest public pension plan, led a consortium of investors that purchased London City Airport for about 2 billion pounds ($2.9 billion) last month. It also owns Britain’s High Speed One Channel Tunnel railway link and its National Lottery operator.

Bjarne Graven Larsen, the pension plan’s chief investment officer, said it remained committed to investing in Britain in the long-term regardless of the outcome of the June 23 “Brexit” referendum, but has concerns over the short-term currency risk.

Sterling has fallen by nearly 10 percent against the Canadian dollar since the referendum was announced in February.

“It’s a risk and we have to try and figure out how that risk will play out. We have people looking at it on a daily basis, but it’s not something that will make us stop investing in the UK long term,” Larsen told reporters on Wednesday.

Reuters reported earlier this month that some of Canada’s top pension funds were holding back on deals until after the British vote.

Ontario Teachers’, which administers pensions for 316,000 retired and working teachers in Canada’s most populous province, on Wednesday reported a 13 percent investment return for 2015. That compared with an 11.8 percent return in 2014.

The pension plan said its net assets grew to a record C$171.4 billion at the end of 2015 from C$154.5 billion a year earlier.

Ontario Teachers’ pioneered a move by Canadian pension funds to invest directly in private companies, infrastructure and real estate internationally as an alternative to Canadian equities and government bonds.

Larsen, however, said it was becoming harder to find assets for sale at the right prices because of “unprecedented global competition” and emphasized the need to add value through the management of assets.

“We are continuing to look at investments where we can hold assets for a long time and invest along the way to add value, so even if it turns out we paid a price that was a little bit too high on a one-year perspective, it might be a very good investment on a two-, three-, five- or 10-year perspective,” he said.

Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Paul Simao

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