UK - BP, the energy giant, is closing its $18.24bn (€12.83bn) UK final salary pension scheme to new members from 1 April next year.

The company said the move was not precipitated by the recent stock market turmoil, but was a long-term move designed to help the fund cover its liabilities.

The scheme, which is non-contributory, has 12,000 active members, 18,000 deferred members and 39,000 pensioners and dependents.

A company spokesman said: "People are living longer and the fund has to cover costs over a longer period, while active membership is fairly flat."

The fund, which at the end of 2007 had a $1.6bn surplus and a cover ratio of 134%, expects to make estimated savings of $200m a year in 10 years' time by closing to new entrants.

From next April, new staff members will instead have the option of joining a DC scheme, as part of a wider menu of flexible benefits available to all staff.

Although staff consultations are still in progress, the menu will include free health screening and private health cover, with an option to pay for family members. At present, staff are offered discounts with BUPA.

There will also be a free car leasing scheme, in contrast with the scheme currently available which is only open to staff in certain job grades.

New staff members will receive an allowance of up to 15% of their salary to spend on their choice of elements in the benefits menu.

For DC scheme members, part of this amount will cover their contributions; the company is likely to suggest they pay 5% into the scheme. Alternatively, staff members could take their allowance as cash.

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