Uniq’s recovery plan for final salary pension rejected by regulator

Uniq’s plans to tackle its final salary scheme’s deficit have not been accepted by The Pensions Regulator.

In April, the chilled food manufacturer made an agreement with its trustees that in 2013 it would pay off an minimum of £10 million a year to pay of its part of its £436 million deficit.

In the period up to 2013, it was agreed there would be no contributions to the scheme and a further £5 million would be set aside to fund liability management schemes and the pension protection fund (PPF) levy.

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Other measures included reducing the risk for the pension scheme by reducing equity exposure from 50% to 30% of the scheme’s assets and providing for the possibility of future dividend payments so long as they are sufficiently covered by free cash flow net of pension payments.

These arrangements, however, were not authorised by The Pensions Regulator because it did not meet all of its criteria.

The food manufacturer said the outcome of any decision to manage the long-term framework for its pensions fund would have a fundamental impact on its pension scheme and the firm’s share price.

A statement released by Uniq read: “The Pensions Regulator has stated the pension framework, as currently constituted, does not meet all of its criteria for clearance. The company and the trustee continue to work together to seek a resolution for the pension scheme and the company anticipates it will take some time to resolve.”

Jonathon Land, pensions credit advisory partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, said: “Many people were watching with interest to see if Uniq’s funding deal would be cleared by The Pensions Regulator and were possibly planning similar transactions if it had been.

“By rejecting Uniq’s proposals, The Pensions Regulator has shown it is willing to take a hard line where it believes a deal is not in the best interests of pension scheme members. The transaction may therefore set an unwelcome precedent.”

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