UK - Over 5,800 defined benefit schemes have increased their aggregate surplus by £52.7bn (€73.7bn) over the last year, according to the Purple Book 2007.

In the second edition of the Pensions Universe Risk Profile - a joint project between The Pensions Regulator and the Pension Protection Fund - figures showed the total s179 assets, which are calculated as the value of a fund on an insured buyout basis, increased 5.2% to £725bn, while total s179 liabilities dropped 2.4% to £672bn, leaving a surplus at the end of March 2007 of £52.9bn.

The research, which looks at data from 5,892 DB schemes representing 76% of all schemes eligible for entry into the PPF, included new information about the number and size of claims on the PPF, a breakdown of levy payments made by eligible schemes and the number of people benefiting from PPF protection.

Findings from the report suggested less mature schemes - where less than 25% of liabilities are pensions in payment - tend to be in deficit, with a weighted average funding level of just 90% compared to 125% for the most mature schemes.

That said, the analysis claimed larger schemes, with more than 10,000 members, are generally better funded with an aggregate surplus of £53.4bn and a weighted average funding level of 113%.

Schemes had paid £9bn in contributions to try and reduce deficits over the last year, research revealed, although it suggested changes in market conditions may also have helped improve the overall funding position as a 2.5% change in equity prices or a 0.1% movement in gilt yields can both affect funding by up to £12bn.

Equities remained the most popular investment choice, with a 60% allocation overall, closely followed by 29% into gilts and fixed interest, while just 2.7% of total assets has been placed in "other investments".

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