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Quebec pension fund suffers with too many malls, not enough tech

[QUEBEC] Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec posted a 2.3 per cent loss in the first half of 2020 after largely missing the rally in large technology stocks and suffering from its heavy exposure to shopping malls.

Canada's second-largest pension manager underperformed its benchmark, which was up 0.8 per cent in the half, the firm said in a statement Friday. The fund returned 6.1 per cent in the same period a year earlier. Net assets were C$333 billion (S$341.54 billion) as at June 30, compared to C$340 billion at the end of the year.

The fund attributed its performance to its high exposure to shopping centers and "the equity market portfolio's underweighting in certain big tech stocks", Caisse said in the statement. The fund, owned by the Quebec government, owns a large collection of malls in Canada and Brazil through its Ivanhoe Cambridge subsidiary.

"We have to make sure that our portfolio takes a digital turn to follow the economy," Caisse chief executive officer Charles Emond said in a conference call with reporters. He said the Caisse would hold discussions with the entities for which it manages money, which include the province's public pension fund and insurance funds.

Over 10 years, CDPQ's annualised return was 8.7 per cent compared to 8.4 per cent for its benchmark portfolio. Over five years, CDPQ's annualised return was 6.3 per cent, slightly above the 6.2 per cent of its benchmark.

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The fund wrote off an investment in Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group after the live performance company filed for a restructuring under Canada's creditor protection law.

"You have a company here that's currently totally closed, and will probably be so for an extended future," Mr Emond said. Looking at the books, it was "obvious" that the pension fund had to take a hit on its US$170 million investment, he added. The Caisse owned a 20 per cent equity stake in Cirque when it filed.

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