Canadian pension fund OMERS reports first annual loss since financial crisis

Maiya Keidan and Noor Zainab Hussain
·1 min read

By Maiya Keidan and Noor Zainab Hussain

Feb 25 (Reuters) - Canadian pension fund OMERS on Thursday reported its first annual net loss since the 2008 financial crisis, as widespread lockdowns brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic hit its investments in real estate, energy and financial services sectors.

OMERS reported a negative return of 2.7% or $C3 billion in 2020.

Many Canadian pension funds struggled to navigate the coronavirus pandemic last year, leading to widespread shutdowns of the economy and historic market falls.

OMERS, one of the largest defined benefit pension plans in Canada, saw its investment portfolio averaging annual returns of 8.2% over the ten-year period leading up to 2020. It delivered returns of 11.9% in 2019.

"This is one difficult year, largely COVID-related that we will put behind us," Chief Executive Officer Blake Hutcheson told Reuters, while pointing to better days ahead.

"We've woken up this year already in pretty good shape but it didn't happen to coincide with year-end," he said.

OMERS said it planned to shift capital towards businesses with lower carbon intensity, including renewable power, and continue to invest in real estate sectors, including industrial spaces and laboratories.

Founded in 1962, OMERS is a jointly sponsored, defined benefit pension plan, with 1,000 participating employers ranging from large cities to local agencies. OMERS had $105 billion in net assets as at the end of 2020. ($1 = 1.2476 Canadian dollars) (Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru and Maiya Keidan in Toronto; Editing by Anil D'Silva)