Europe’s tech deficit sends Finnish pension fund to U.S. stocks

The EUR 44.9bn pension fund Varma is adding to its pile of U.S. equities and divesting from Europe, citing a technology gap it says exists between the two stock markets.

Varma Chief Investment Officer Reima Rytsola | Photo: PR

Varma cut its allocation to European listed stocks outside Finland to just 5 percent at the end of the second quarter from 10 percent in March and 16 percent in December. More than a third of the listed equities it now owns are in U.S. companies.

Chief Investment Officer Reima Rytsölä says U.S. tech firms “have been able to show incredible growth rates with increasing profitability; that’s of course a heavenly combination from an investors’ point of view.” The pandemic has only added to the case for U.S. tech stocks, Rytsölä says.

In technology, Rytsölä says it’s all about picking the best stocks rather than owning a bit of everything. “In many cases it’s kind of a winner takes it all market,” he said. “Some of those U.S. tech giants have been really successful in that race.” '

Technology companies make up a “huge chunk” of U.S. stocks, so they’re hard for an investor to avoid; but in Europe, they tend to be owned by private equity firms, so “even though you take that exposure through PE investments, still the size of that industry is far smaller than in the U.S.,” Rytsölä said.

But he also acknowledged there are risks, particularly in relation to regulation and “how governments will in the future take a more restrictive role [toward tech giants’] monopolistic or oligopolistic positions in the market.”

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