Ireland’s largest private and public sector bodies saw their pension scheme deficits swell to more than €8.5bn at the end of August from €4bn at the end of December, according to an analysis carried out by consultancy LCP.
Even though global equity markets put on more than 12% in the eight-month period, the defined benefit (DB) schemes were hit by falling bond yields, the study showed.
The report, which takes in data from the DB schemes of 16 of the biggest Irish quoted companies by market cap and 13 semi-state/state-controlled companies found the average funding level to increased to 85% in 2013 from 81% in 2012.
But only one of the companies analysed – public broadcaster RTE – reported that it had enough assets to meet its accounting liabilities at the end of 2013.
Conor Daly, partner at LCP, said: “It is clear from the 2014 report that defined pension schemes remain under considerable pressure.”
He predicted the big fall in bond yields during 2014 would have a devastating impact on many companies’ 2014 balance sheets.
“Having seen many difficult benefit reductions and funding plans being implemented over the last 24 months, with pain being taken on all sides, it would seem defined benefit pension schemes cannot catch a break,” he said.
LCP said Irish pension schemes were still holding higher-than-average equity allocations when compared with other jurisdictions.
In Ireland, the average holding in equities is 50%; for FTSE 100 companies in the UK, it is 33%.
Of schemes in the survey, the highest equity allocation was held by Ryanair ,with 77% in 2013, up from 74% the year before, while C&G Group had the lowest at 25%.
According to LCP, the government’s pensions levy wiped €2.3bn from Irish pension schemes since it was introduced.
Daly said the consultancy welcomed the government’s announcement in the 2015 Budget that the pensions levy would stop after next year.
“The pensions levy has acted as a considerable disincentive to members and employers to contribute to pension schemes,” he said.