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UK roundup: Tesco Pension Scheme, Barnett Waddingham

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Tesco has approved a new £270m (€375m) per annum deficit-reduction plan with its pension scheme after the triennial valuation revealed a nearly 200% rise in its deficit.

The UK high-street supermarket, which revealed an overall £6.4bn annual loss after significant write-downs, has been suffering recently, restating accounts after reporting its quarterly profit to be £250m higher than realised.

It now faces investigations from the UK’s Financial Reporting Council (FRC) and Serious Fraud Office (SFO), as well as a potential lawsuit from institutional investors over allegedly misleading financial statements.

The £8.1bn Tesco Pension Scheme is now likely to be closed to future accrual after the supermarket announced a consultation earlier this year.

Its triennial valuation revealed the deficit rising from £934m in 2011 to £2.8bn by 2014, leading to the new funding plan.

On an IAS 19 basis, the group’s overall pension scheme deficits increase to £3.9bn from £2.6bn, despite what Tesco described as “strong asset performance”.

Tesco said an 80 basis point fall in real corporate bond yields affected the discount rate, resulting in the deficit spike.

In other news, Barnett Waddingham analysis of UK defined benefit schemes with more than £1bn in assets showed the use of alternative investment strategies has declined slightly, with the proportion of assets classed as ‘other’ moving to 18% from 22%.

The ‘other’ category, the consultancy said, is normally classed as hedge funds or derivatives, or where allocations between Gilts, equities and property cannot be distinguished.

Data was taken from public accounts for the accounting year ending October 2014.

The survey also found the average deficit recovery plans was around £94m per annum.

However, the companies ranged between £7m and £400m.

Barnett Waddingham said it made little impact, with funding levels remaining stagnant at 94% from 2013.

The large DB schemes paid an average levy to the Pension Protection Fund of £3.2m, around 0.03% of assets.

Barnett Waddingham said investment fees were still the largest cost factor, with the average among the funds working out to 0.2%.

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