Real estate significantly improved its performance compared to 2013, returning 3.75%, up from 0.25% the year prior.Corporate bonds boosted the scheme’s asset value by 6.8%, aided by the book value increase due to low interest rates, while nearly all equity markets saw positive returns.Across all of Publica’s 21 pension funds, the average coverage ratio rose 1.2 percentage points to 105.3%, with none of the schemes underfunded. The fund was until recently shielded from the SNB’s negative deposit charges, a decision overturned after public backlash. The number of active members across all scheme members rose by 2.6% to 62,500, and pensioners fell by 3.3%.For more on Publica’s investment strategy, read IPE’s interview with deputy CIO Patrick Uelfeti Switzerland’s Publica has praised returns from its corporate bond and equity portfolios, while noting that its approach to hedging held back performance in 2014.The public pension fund, with assets of CHF37.7bn (€31.3bn) at the end of December, said as it published its annual report that overall returns would have been 8.9% last year rather than 5.9%, had it not fully hedged its currency exposure.It defended its hedging approach earlier this year after the Swiss National Bank (SNB) ended the franc’s peg to the euro, a move that would have led to significant losses had it not been for the hedge.Falling oil price also hit Publica, with the fund saying the nearly 29% decline in crude oil prices led to a loss of 1.1% in 2014. The loss was despite only 2% of the fund’s portfolio being invested in commodities – comprising crude oil, petrol and heating oil.
Germany’s industrial services provider Bilfinger has secured contracts worth more than EUR 100 million (USD 113.5 million) for its scrubber technology, following additional orders in recent months. This brings a total of 70 ocean-going vessels belonging to national and international shipping companies in line with stricter future environmental requirements imposed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the European Union.As informed, shipping companies from Germany, Greece as well as a shipyard in China have ordered the company’s scrubbers.As the international maritime shipping industry is increasingly using emission-reducing flue-gas desulfurization systems, Bilfinger sees huge potential for environmental technologies in the maritime sector.Since Bilfinger began transferring its power plant flue-gas desulfurization expertise to maritime applications around two years ago, orders received have come to around EUR 102 million. According to the German Shipowners’ Association (VDR), some 50,000 merchant ships are affected by the new sulfur emission limits. To meet the anticipated demand, the group is already taking a closer look at potential fabrication partners for flue-gas desulfurization systems in China.International shipping will face significantly stricter environmental standards in the future. Most vessels are currently propelled by heavy fuel oil containing up to 3.5 percent sulfur. In response to this, the IMO has reduced the permissible fuel sulfur content worldwide to 0.5 percent from 2020. Both the IMO and the EU allow desulfurization to be achieved using flue-gas cleaning systems known as scrubbers. These reduce exhaust sulfur dioxide concentrations just as thoroughly as with the use of low-sulfur fuels (marine diesel and LNG), which are very expensive by comparison, according to the company.“The scrubber is a virtually unrivaled product that pays for itself in just one to two and a half years. The strong demand bears out our … technology transfer from the industrial plant sector to other growth segments,” Jens Borgschulte, Finance Director of the Technologies service line, commented.