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UK roundup: AG Barr, Canada Life, Merseyside Pension Fund

AG Barr, the Scottish soft-drinks manufacturer, has completed a £35m (€40.1m) bulk annuity deal with Canada Life for its pension scheme, covering more than 50% of the scheme’s pensioner liabilities, and focuses on those who have recently retired.

The deficit for the AG Barr (2008) Pension and Life Assurance Scheme doubled from £13.7m at the end of July 2015 to £25m a year later, with the scheme’s defined benefit section closed to future accruals from 1 May 2016.

The buy-in was primarily funded with Gilts, with the trustees taking advantage of good pricing to optimise their low-risk assets.

Lead adviser to the trustees was Hymans Robertson, with Shepherd and Wedderburn providing legal advice.

James Mullins, partner and head of risk-transfer solutions at Hymans Robertson, said: “This deal is illustrative of the excellent value the market for pensioner buy-ins represents at the moment.

“This is being driven by new entrants to the market such as Canada Life. It’s therefore highly likely we’ll see an increasing number of schemes go down this route, taking them a step closer to fully securing benefits.”

In other news, the Merseyside Pension Fund (MPF), the pension scheme for public sector employees in Merseyside, northwest England, has reported an investment return of 1.2% on its £6.8bn portfolio for the year to 31 March, compared with its bespoke benchmark return of -0.4%.

This takes average annualised returns to 6.5% for the three years, and 7.1% for the five years, to the same date.

The previous year had seen a return of 12.6%, compared with 10.9% for the benchmark.

During 2015-16, equities in all geographical regions except North America made negative returns, but other asset classes were all in positive territory, with property by far the best performer, returning around 10% (specific figures are not published).

There was little change in asset allocation year on year.

The strategic allocations are 30% in overseas equities, 23% in UK equities, 20% in alternatives, 19% in fixed interest and 8% in property.

However, councillor Paul Doughty, chair of the fund’s pensions committee, said that, as anticipated in the previous year, volatility in financial markets was picking up, and the fund had been positioned cautiously.

With the next triennial valuation to be made as at 31 March, the MPF’s estimated funding level is around 76%, the same as for the previous valuation.

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