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AA drives de-risking with £351m bulk annuity deal

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The AA UK Pension Scheme has completed a pension buy-in, purchasing a bulk annuity policy for around £351m (€395m) from Canada Life.

The insurance covers all benefits payable to 2,510 pensioner and dependant members, the AA said in its interim financial report.

The risk transfer to Canada Life took place on 23 August, the AA said, with the defined benefit (DB) obligation being about £47m less than the premium paid.

The scheme – which had £2.3bn in assets at the end of January – was undertaking a “gradual de-risking programme”, according to its adviser Aon.

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Aon added in a statement that the transaction had been set up to enable follow-on deals for other sections of the AA scheme when pricing becomes attractive.

Steve Delo, trustee chairman of the AA Pension Scheme, said: “We are very pleased to implement this key step in our de-risking plan and we are grateful for the excellent advisory support from Aon and Hogan Lovells. This produced a swift end-to-end conclusion to the deal and delivered highly competitive pricing.

“This transaction has had a positive impact on the funding of the scheme while producing a reduction in risk.”

Richard Priestley, executive director at Canada Life, added that his firm had seen “significant business” in recent months.

At the end of August, UK recruitment company Hays bought a £271m insurance buy-in from Canada Life, covering the pensions of all its retired members as of 31 December 2017.

This year has already seen bulk annuity transactions break records. Legal & General backed the UK’s biggest single buy-in transaction earlier this month with a £4.4bn deal with British Airways’ Airways Pension Scheme.

As longevity data has shifted in DB schemes’ favour and funding levels have neared 100% on average according to several measures, more and more schemes have sought to crystallise gains with insurance contracts. At the same time, insurers and advisers have predicted much more activity to come in the months ahead.

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