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Bingo group confirms pension fund sale plans

UK - Rank Group, the owner of Mecca Bingo and other gaming businesses, said it is contemplating putting its £700m pension scheme up for sale.

Rank, whose principal activities are the operation of bingo halls and casinos in the UK along with online gaming and bookmaking services, told IPE the pension scheme is quite large in comparison to the company's market capitalisation so Rank would find it attractive to remove that liability.

"It is a 20,000 member scheme, very few of those members are active, so it is pretty mature and large in comparison to the size of the company that Rank is now, following restructuring and the sale of businesses," said the spokesman.

"In terms of the liability inherent in that, we would find it attractive to remove that liability, because it could, in theory, have an impact on the valuation of the company that is out of proportion to what it would have been a few years ago," he added.

Should the firm go ahead, it would one of the largest pension schemes yet to come onto the market, so several specialist pension buyout groups, including Paternoster and Synesis Life, are said to have already expressed an interest.

Rank's spokesman further commented: "I don't know definitively who might have approached and who has not. But we said six months ago that we were going to fully fund on a buyout basis. I would imagine if you intend to make your money by buying out final salary pension schemes and you hear a company say that and you don't make an approach you are probably not doing your job."

If the buyout goes through, it would be the first time a large public company has done such a deal.

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