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UK roundup: PPF 7800 Index, Partnership, medically underwritten buy-ins

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The deficit among UK pension funds has increased by one-third after a significant fall in yields over the month of November, research from the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) has shown.

The lifeboat fund’s monthly 7800 Index update, which calculates the ability of UK pension funds to provide PPF-level benefits, found a shortfall among the 6,057 schemes of £221.bn (€280.5bn) at the end of November.

This was a 34% increase from the £164.9bn figure a month earlier.

The fund said the chief reason for the sudden increase was a 31 basis point drop in the yield of 15-year UK Gilts.

It also pointed out that the increase in liabilities came despite a 2.9% rise in the value of assets after positive stock market movements.

Over the month, assets rose to £1.23bn from £1.2bn, but the increase was offset by a 6.6% rise in liabilities going from £1.36bn to £1.46bn.

The PPF said funding ratios, over the year to the end of November, deteriorated by more than 13 percentage points, falling from 97.5% in 2013 to 84.8%.

In other news, Partnership, the medically underwritten annuity provider, has announced a record-breaking £206m buy-in with an undisclosed UK pension fund.

The multi-billion pound pension fund requested to remain anonymous until all affected members had been informed.

The latest transaction, in a growing market of medically underwritten transactions, was won by Partnership after an open tender among four providers.

Partnership insured the pension scheme’s highest valued members in a process known as ‘top-slicing’, which sees the members with the greatest individual liabilities insured.

The first medically underwritten bulk annuity was insured by Partnership only in March 2013, but the combined market now accounts for more than £600m of liabilities.

Hymans Robertson, a consultancy, said it expected the market to reach £1bn by the first half of 2015, given the pipeline of deals.

Partner James Mullins said the most popular transaction type remained the ‘top-slice’.

“This allows the pension scheme to remove a significant concentration of risk at a highly competitive price,” he said.

The record-breaking medically underwritten deal in 2014 adds to fellow record deals for buyouts and traditional buy-ins also seen this year.

Last month, the TRW scheme broke the buyout record in a £2.5bn deal with L&G, which followed on from the insurer’s £3bn record buy-in with the ICI Pension Fund.

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