UK - Final salary schemes belonging to companies in the FTSE 100 reached an aggregate surplus of £15bn (€20.3bn) in 2007, consultancy Deloitte has revealed.

Actuaries for the professional services firm estimate there was a £55bn improvement in performance during 2007, thanks to annual investment returns of around 3.5%, higher levels of employer contributions and a fall in the value of company bonds used to value pension liabilities.

This analysis, which was based on calculations using disclosed FRS17 and IAS19 information, also highlighted the important role scheme trustees are starting to play in corporate transactions such as the acquisition of Alliance Boots by private equity company KKR and the failed takeover of J Sainsbury by Delta Two.

But Deloitte warned changes to pension funding regulation introduced in 2005 are now starting to impact schemes as companies have to meet higher funding targets, but at the same time they are trying to avoid "over funding" schemes to stop surplus cash becoming stranded.

As a result, Deloitte suggests recent developments in the buyout market - which has seen several schemes, such as Emap and Threshers, transfer their assets and liabilities to an insurance company - could lead to an increase in scheme buyouts, particularly as the firm is predicting the FTSE 100 surplus will rise to £30bn by the end of 2008.

David Robbins, pensions partner at Deloitte, said: "Over 2008, companies will be looking to solve their pensions problems for good. Options that include transferring pension schemes to new specialist pension buy-out companies are beginning to look viable."

That said, Deloitte figures also suggest a more positive trend among defined benefit schemes compared to the December update from the Pension Protection Fund's 7800 Solvency Index.

Data from the PPF on the estimated s179 funding position of 7,783 DB schemes revealed the aggregate funding position had fallen from a surplus of £53bn in October, to a deficit of £5bn in November 2007. 

The PPF claimed this was the first time schemes have fallen into deficit since November 2006, when the aggregate shortfall was £30bn, however it said the decline reflected market movements in November which saw a fall in both gilt yields and equity markets.

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