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Listed firms may need to plug deficits

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  • Listed firms may need to plug deficits

NETHERLANDS - Listed companies with defined benefit pension arrangements may have to fork out millions of euros to make up for the present shortfall of their company schemes, analysis by SNS Securities has suggested.

Printer and copier manufacturer Océ, supermarket chain Super de Boer, as well as publisher Reed Elsevier, telecoms giant KPN and postal company TNT are among the companies most at risk of having to make additional cash contributions are, according to the investment services provider.

SNS Securities has calculated the pension fund of Océ, which has an estimated cover ratio of 89% against assets of €752m in 2007, is facing a deficit of €86m.

Under the current arrangements, the company is supposed to repair two-thirds of the gap, which represents 20% of Océ's market value, data indicated.

SNS has also estimated the cover ratio of Super de Boer's scheme is at 92.3%, implying there is a pensions deficit of €36m, which equals 12.4% of the company's market value.

KPN's pension fund is facing a deficit of €100m as it has an estimated funding ratio of 99.2%, creating one of the most substantial risks for the company, SNS researchers have argued.

And TNT, which has a similar cover ratio, could be forced to fund a €125m gap - amounting to 11.6% of its market value - in the shortfall of its pension scheme.

"If a repair of a pension gap becomes significant, we expect the market will take this issue into account when it values a company", SNS claimed.

"The estimated further deterioration of pension deficits will negatively impact on shareholder value of our sample of ten companies by approximately 4%."

Nick Gale, spokesman for Océ, declined to comment on the SNS report but said the company will raise contributions for its 4,000 Dutch workers and is unlikely to grant any indexation.

"The details are still being discussed," he added.

Océ's company's contributions are 27.1%, while the present arrangements allows for a rise to 30%.

Dutch regulations stipulate the cover ratio of a pension fund must be at least 105%, and any shortfall must be repaired within three years.

Schemes must also have financial reserves equalling a funding ratio of approximately 120% so any gap below that must be filled in within 15 years.

Because of the extreme market conditions, Dutch pension regulator DNB has recently postponed the deadline for submitting recovery plans until 1 April 2009.

If you have any comments you would like to add to this or any other story, contact Julie Henderson on + 44 (0)20 7261 4602 or email julie.henderson@ipe.com

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