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Published: Thursday, 6/24/2010

Ohio pension fund watches BP holdings plummet


COLUMBUS - Ohio's largest public employee pension fund has seen the rapid decline in the value of BP PLC stock as a buying opportunity, increasing its stake in the oil giant by nearly a third since the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Even with an additional 3.3 million shares of stock in its portfolio, the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System's total investment in BP on June 16 was worth nearly $13 million less than it was before the fatal Deepwater Horizon rig explosion began spilling hundreds of thousands of crude into the sea.

"Most of our stock purchases are made by external managers who make independent decisions and have different reasons for their decisions," said OPERS spokesman Julie Graham-Price. "It's undeniable that the price has fallen, and with investments, price matters."

Meanwhile, the School Employees Retirement System yesterday said it erred last week when it told The Blade that it was also buying BP stock while the price was falling. Spokesman Laura Troiano said yesterday the fund relied on an incorrect report when it said it held no BP shares as of April 15, four days before the explosion.

Instead, the fund actually owned $21.4 million worth of BP stock on April 15, a figure that had declined to $12.3 million as of last week.

That leaves only OPERS among the state's five public pension funds that was buying BP shares as the price dropped.

OPERS did not respond to The Blade's request for BP investment numbers until yesterday.

As of April 1, OPERS held nearly 7.2 million shares of BP valued at a total of $69.5 million.

As of June 16, it had increased its holdings to 10.5 million shares, but the total market value of those shares had dropped to $56.7 million.

The fund noted that it had a total investment portfolio of $67.2 billion as of the end of May.

The State Teachers Retirement System reported that, as of last week, it had shed nearly 3 million shares of the 13.9 million it held in BP as of April 1.

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