Super fund continues to give steady returns

The New Zealand Superannuation Fund returned 1.41% on its $25.5 billion of assets in March, taking the annual return to 18.1%.

Because of its weighting to growth assets, the fund can experience large short-term movements.

But as a long-term investor, the fund has a greater-than-average ability to withstand the volatility.

Finance Minister Bill English hinted in last week's Budget the Government would resume contributions to the fund once the Crown accounts were back into surplus.

The surplus is expected in the 2014-15 financial year, but it seems contributions are unlikely to resume before 2020.

The fund, commonly known as the Cullen Fund after its founder and former finance minister Sir Michael Cullen, has provided a 9.55% return since its inception in September 2003.

In the past five years, the fund has provided a return of more than 17% and in the past three years, the return has been 13.5%.

The Crown's operating surplus has been boosted by the returns of the funds but Mr English prefers the operating balance excluding gains and losses (obegal) as his measure of a surplus. That remains in deficit but is expected to provide a wafer-thin surplus next year.

Details provided by the fund trustees show it has 62% exposure to global equities, 11% in fixed income, 6% in property, 5% in timber, 4% in infrastructure and 5% in New Zealand equities.

North America remains the investment destination of choice with 35% of assets invested there followed by 27% of the fund invested in Europe, 17% in New Zealand, 8% in Australia and 5% in Japan.

The fund's largest exposure is $312 million in Z Energy, which it used to own half of, with Infratil, before a NZX listing, $175.2 million in Fletcher Building, $172 million in Metlifecare and $128.1 million in Telecom.

Overseas, it has investments in Apple, Zurich Airport, Exxon Mobil, Simon Property Group, Verizon, AT&T and Microsoft.

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