IRELAND - Defined benefit (DB) schemes submitting a funding proposal to the Pensions Board have been granted an extension beyond the original May deadline, the organisation said.

The Irish regulator did not specify a new deadline, but said the extension was a result of minister for social protection, Éamon Ó Cuív, announcing that plans for a new DB system would be implemented by the middle of next year.

The plans, which were first announced in March this year by the department for social protection, were part of a general overhaul of the country's pension system, which included increasing the retirement age to 68 in under 20 years, as well as an auto-enrolment system.

A statement by the Pensions Board said: "During considerations for this new model, the department will look at issues regarding the governance of defined benefit schemes, the basis for the funding standard - including areas such as risk management, smoothing out effects of changes in the bond markets - and strategies for transitioning schemes to this new model."

It added: "A full consultation process will take place with all stakeholders, including employers, trade unions and the pensions industry, in developing this new model."

Hewitt Associates had previously warned that many first drafts for funding proposals were being rejected by the regulator because of the risk exposure suggested in them.

Meanwhile, drinks producer C&C Group, whose products include Tennent's and Magners, have seen their pension fund deficit more than double in the first six months of 2010.

According to half yearly results until 31 August, the company has seen the deficit in its DB scheme increase from €21m to €49.7m.

The company said: "Economic uncertainty and the consequent lowering of bond yields contributed to a significant deterioration in the pension deficit over the last six months.

"The last actuarial valuation of 1 January 2009 highlighted the scheme's failure to meet the minimum funding standard, and the group has been working toward a funding proposal for the Pensions Board ahead of the 31 May 2011 submission deadline."