On the brink of a new era

Global fixed-income and equity markets recovered in 2023, after the sharp market downturns of the previous year. The year alternated between substantial upturns and sharp market downturns as investors tried to assess interpret the situation, and deal with the increased volatility. With carefully considered portfolio positions and a steady focus on implementation, Första AP-fonden achieved a return of 9.1 per cent, which corresponds to net investment income of SEK 38.0 billion.

Net investment income amounted to SEK 38.0 billion, or 9.1 per cent. Assets under management amounted to SEK 454.4 billion as of 31 December 2023, and Första AP-fonden transferred SEK 4.8 billion to the income pension system in 2023. Första AP-fonden has once again exceeded its target of 3.0 per cent real returns over rolling ten-year periods, as the Fund’s average real return amounts to 5.0 per cent over the past ten years. Positive earnings contributions came from listed equities and from fixed income, which offset the negative returns from unlisted assets such as real estate, infrastructure and private equity funds. The Fund has maintained a low expense ratio at 0.06 per cent, while asset management is increasing its productivity and we’re bolstering the Fund’s IT capacity and infrastructure.

“Positive full-year results have been achieved through a carefully considered portfolio positioning and focused implementation. Based on a thorough and detailed analysis of expected growth, we gradually increased the allocation to equity and the duration, i.e. sensitivity to interest rates, via neutral to somewhat higher levels, after holding more conservative positions last year. Greater allocation to equity and the longer duration paid off, particularly in the last few months of the year, while several of the underlying portfolios also surpassed their benchmark indices. During the second half of the year, we assessed that the Swedish krona would strengthen, and the positions we took in terms of increased currency hedging and option strategies served us well. Our allocation to emerging markets was also lowered last year, based on our evaluation that there would be better returns from developed markets”, commented the Fund’s CEO Kristin Magnusson Bernard.

The Fund continued its important work in the area of sustainability in 2023. As an example, stewardship activities are core elements of the ESG work and ahead of and during 2023, the Fund participated in nomination committees, voted at General meetings, and pursued issues such as fair and market-based remuneration and sustainable businesses. As a responsible owner, the Fund conducts dialogues with foreign portfolio companies through the Council on Ethics of the Swedish National Pension Funds, to influence these companies in a positive way. In 2023 the Council on Ethics established a new governance model and organisation that better enables it to achieve a greater impact in a cost-efficient manner. In 2019 Första AP-fonden adopted a climate target to halve the carbon footprint of the listed equity portfolio by the end of 2030 and become carbon-neutral by the end of 2050. These efforts continued in 2023 and since 2019, the carbon footprint of the listed equity portfolio has decreased by 64% (31 December 2023).

“Our world is likely to continue to be characterised by uncertainty, stronger market volatility and a high cost of capital, even though the peak in interest rates has probably been reached for this upward cycle. Innovative solutions and productivity advancements will become more crucial to growth and prosperity than in the period we have just lived through when market growth was driven by constantly falling interest rates and other stimulation measures. The upcoming period will not be without challenges to our mandate to create high returns and sustainability value with good risk management of the pension capital entrusted to us. I am therefore particularly grateful to the Board and my colleagues at the Fund for their openness and ability to take on and implement changes together, and to see things from different perspectives. I am convinced that our capacity for strategic shifts and daily operational work will position us excellently to take on the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead”, says Kristin Magnusson Bernard.

Key ratios 31/12/2023 31/12/2022 31/12/2021
Closing net assets, SEK bn 454.4 421.2 465.8
Net investment income for the period, SEK bn 38.0 -39.9 80.7
Net flow Pension system, SEK bn -4.8 -4.7 -7.5
Opening net assets, SEK bn 421.2 465.8 392.6
Expense ratio, Operating expenses, % 0.06 0.05 0.05
Expense ratio, Commission expenses, % 0.00 0.01 0.02
Total expense ratio, % 0.06 0.06 0.07
Return after expenses, % 9.1 -8.6 20.8
Real return after expenses, % 4.7 -20.9 16.9
Annualised return after expenses, 5 years, % 8.7 6.7 10.6
Annualised return after expenses, 10 years, % 7.9 8.1 10.3
Real annualised return after expenses, 10 years, % 5.0 5.6 9.0
Weighted average carbon intensity tCO2e/SEK m 1) 5.9 7.1 8.2

1. The metric adds together each portfolio company’s carbon intensity, i.e. a company’s carbon emission in relation to its turnover, weighted according to each company’s share in the portfolio.

Download Första AP-fonden’s 2023 Annual Report here.

Kristin Magnusson Bernard, CEO Första AP-fonden, tel. +46 (0)8-566 202 00
Sara Christensen, Head of Communications, Första AP-fonden, tel. +46 (0)70-968 12 50, sara.christensen@ap1.se.