Canadian public pension funds scooped up private debt as market upheaval from Covid-19 left borrowers willing to offer appealing terms.
Their private debt allocations ticked up more than 5% to $46.9 billion between Dec. 31 and Sept. 20, according to Preqin data. It was the biggest increase in percentage allocation in five years, from about 3% of total fund holdings to 4%.
Unlike the publicly traded bonds that have been a staple of pension fund portfolios for decades, these investments typically consist of private loans made to companies, either by a pension fund directly or through an investment manager.
“It’s been a very good year as far as deployment is concerned,” said Jérome Marquis, a managing director and head of corporate credit at Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, which manages $333 billion on behalf of six million workers and retirees in the province.
The increase in private debt is part of a larger push by U.S. and Canadian pension funds into privately held investments coveted for their high projected returns. But U.S. pension funds’ overall private debt holdings haven’t grown during the pandemic, Preqin found.
U.S. state and local government pension plans’ holdings fell $2.7 billion to $93.7 billion from the end of 2019 through Sept. 20, according to Preqin data, and private debt allocations stayed at about 3%. The data reflect a sampling of major pension plans surveyed by Preqin and don’t include all plans in either country.
Private debt assets lost 8.9% in the first quarter of 2020 and gained 5.7% in the second quarter, based on more than 750 funds tracked by Burgiss, a private capital data and analytics firm.
As post-financial crisis regulations have deterred banks from taking on riskier debt, pension funds have been eager to collect more interest than they can with