SWITZERLAND - One-third of Swiss Pensionskassen surveyed by Swisscanto did not answer the question whether Switzerland was facing a real estate bubble.

Real estate investments were a focus in this year's survey, in which more than 360 Pensionskassen took part - a record number.

Of those, 36% did not answer the question on whether Switzerland were facing a real estate bubble, a scenario the Swiss national bank had warned about last autumn.

One-quarter answered yes, while 41% did not believe there would be a bubble.

However, Swisscanto said that, had the question been limited to certain regions like Zurich, the number of respondents agreeing to the statement "might have been higher".

Swisscanto chief executive Gerard Fischer pointed out that Pensionskassen investing in the real estate sector had "a positive effect" because they were "not buying at any price" and were "keeping purchased properties instead of selling them on at a higher price".

He added: "The focus is not on a profit from speculation, but on a steady, reliable return."

Asked what they would do should real estate prices fall in Switzerland, 58% of Pensionskassen said they would remain invested in real estate, 17% said they would even make new purchases and only 2% said they would exit the asset class.

In total, 19.4% of assets were invested in real estate, and most funds have both direct and indirect exposure, Swisscanto said.

Fischer said some pension funds' intention to increase their real estate allocation was "not easy" to achieve, as the market for purchasing real estate had "dried up".

However, most Pensionskassen (66%) kept their strategic asset allocation unchanged. But of those that did make changes, 54% said they would increase their domestic real estate quota.

The survey also showed a slightly better average return for 2010 of 2.95% than preliminary estimates published in January had suggested.

The average funding level for public funds (15% of the surveyed Pensionskassen) was at 91% at year-end 2010, while private funds achieved a 106% average.

Last year, the number of Pensionskassen that had to carry out recovery measures fell to 15% from 22% in 2009 and 29% in 2008.

Fischer noted that the record number of participants in the survey this year - with combined assets under management of CHF426bn (€340bn) - was proof that the funds were "looking for transparency and are prepared to create transparency".