Canada's Caisse pension fund cuts Russia exposure

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MONTREAL, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Canada's second-biggest pension fund, Caisse de depot, said on Thursday it had sold positions in Russia and would avoid exposure as the country faces additional sanctions due to its invasion of neighboring Ukraine.

Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec, which had C$420 billion ($327 billion) in assets at the end of 2021, said in a statement it had disposed of certain investments that were acquired before sanctions were passed.

"There's no interest in investing directly and being exposed to the strategies when it comes to Russia, that's the main principle," Charles Emond, its chief executive, told reporters.

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Emond said it was difficult to eliminate exposure given the global nature of indexes and investments.

"We are very active to correct the situation, to replicate our indices internally and to leave Russia," he said.

Ukrainian forces battled Russian invaders on Thursday after Moscow mounted a mass attack by land, sea and air in the biggest assault on a European state since World War Two. read more

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday banned Canadians from all financial dealings with the Ukraine separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, which Moscow recognized as independent early this week. He also banned Canadians from purchasing Russian sovereign debt, as part of the first round of economic sanctions on Russia. read more

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, the country's largest pension fund, said it had no direct exposure to Russia and any indirect exposure is minimal after making a "conscious decision" years ago to avoid Russia, a spokesperson said by email.

Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System, which manages pensions for Canadian police among others, said it does not comment on changes in specific shareholdings but complies with applicable sanctions laws. It has investments in two London-based companies, V Group and AMS, that have offices globally, including in Russia, according to its website.

PSP Investments declined to comment, while the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, British Columbia Investment Management Corp., and Alberta Investment Management Corp. did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Caisse said earlier it had generated a weighted-average return of 13.5% on its depositors’ funds in 2021, compared with 10.7% for its benchmark.

($1 = 1.2846 Canadian dollars)

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Reporting by Allison Lampert; Additional reporting by Nichola Saminather; Editing by Alexander Smith, Elaine Hardcastle

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