BELGIUM/SWITZERLAND - The Belgian finance ministry has created confusion about the status of Nestlé's pension funds after announcing the firm is transferring its pensions assets to a pan-European OFP.

Didier Reynders, Belgian finance minister, yesterday told the local media during a press lunch Nestlé was opening an organisation for financing pensions (OFP) which would see the food manufacturer's pension funds transferred to Belgium.

But Jean-Pierre Steiner, chief executive of Nestlé Fonds de Pension, told IPE earlier today no new fund was being erected, and "no Nestlé pension funds will be transferred to Belgium".

Since then, Sofie van Mallegem, press attaché for the minister of finance in Belgium, has told IPE: "The minister has spoken about the potential of Nestlé coming to Belgium, so there is a large potential.

"But Nestle has said it will depend on the market conditions. We now have to wait for the definitive answers from Nestle," she added.

Nestlé spokesman François-Xavier Perroud has also since added: "We are transforming our Belgian pension fund so that at a later stage it could become a European pension fund that could then receive pension fund money from people in other European countries."

However, such a concentration of Nestlé's European pension funds in Belgium will not happen in the next few months, he said.

After conferring with his peers, Perroud then confirmed because of EU law changes, a pan-European offering in Belgium would be cheaper and more efficient and a move to Belgium has been decided.

"The intention is to use this new pension vehicle, but this is not going to happen in the next few months, it might take considerably longer," concluded Perroud.

Van Mallegem said discussions between the Belgian finance ministry and Nestlé are ongoing and "without time constraints" and stressed officials are respectful of any decisions Nestlé makes.

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