UK - Payments made under the recently-signed real estate partnership have brought Marks & Spencer's pension deficit down to £283m (€414.7m).

The massive reduction from an IAS 19 retirement deficit of £795m at the end of the first quarter last year was achieved by a one-off payment of £500m by the company.

This contribution was part of a property partnership deal signed earlier this year.

Under the deal, the high street retailer will sell and lease back a £1.1bn property portfolio.

Then over the next 15 years, £50m will be contributed to the pension fund annually. Interest on the partnership's assets will contribute the balance.

"We are using the value of our property to create value for the pension fund - after all, we all have an interest in the fund," M&S spokeswoman Katie Pratt had told IPE Real in January.

"As far as we're concerned, the key benefit is that we'll still own the property," she added.

The company also has the flexibility to substitute alternative properties.

The £500m payment increased the retailer's net debt at the end of 2006 to £1.95bn, compared with £1.72bn the year before.