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Quebec's Caisse de depot posts 6.7% return on investment, total assets up

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MONTREAL - The head of Quebec's pension-fund manager is following the situation at Bombardier Inc. (TSX:BBD.B), although he doesn't appear unduly worried about the recent turbulence buffeting the company.

The Montreal-based aerospace giant is part of an industry that is "not easy," Michael Sabia, president of the Caisse de depot et placement, said during a conference call Friday.

"Bombardier is important, not only in Quebec but in Canada, because unfortunately we don't have enough world-class companies."

Faced with considerable expenses linked to its projects — in particular the CSeries aircraft — Bombardier recently announced a restructuring of its aircraft division which will see the dismissal of about 1,800 employees.

About 1,000 other workers will be laid off in the rail division by the end of the year.

"We have a very high level of confidence," Sabia said. "It's not an easy industry. We're following the situation closely but, for us, it's not an emergency."

The Caisse, whose investment in Bombardier was evaluated at $271 million as of last Dec. 31 — appeared willing to help the company out if the situation demanded.

"We'd always listen," Sabia said.

Earlier on Friday, the Caisse announced it generated a return on investment of 6.7 per cent for the first six months of this year, raising its assets to $214.7 billion — up 7.3 per cent from $200.1 billion in 2013.

The Quebec-based pension fund manager says its performance was consistent with a benchmark portfolio, which showed 6.8 per cent return on investment.

The Caisse said the equities class, which includes stocks, had a return on investment of 8.8 per cent, up $8.1 billion in the period to $101.9 billion as of June 30, representing nearly half of the portfolio.

Fixed income, which includes interest bearing investments like bonds, were at $76.3 billion as of June 30, up $3.4 billion for a return of investment of 4.7 per cent.

Inflation-sensitive investments, including real estate and infrastructure, were at $33.6 billion, up $1.1 billion for a return on investment of 3.5 per cent.

The Caisse manages assets for public-sector and parapublic pension plans and insurance plans. It invests in financial markets, private equity, infrastructure and real estate, globally.

Given international tensions, Sabia would not guarantee a doubling of the six-month results for the rest of the year.

"Ukraine, Iraq, Gaza, Syria and Libya, the geopolitical risk is high, which partly explains the decline in markets and interest rates that we have seen over the last few weeks," he said.

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