SWITZERLAND - The 30 largest, listed Swiss companies have pushed the funding levels of their pension schemes up to 88%, still far off levels seen before the financial crisis.

In 2007, the schemes, which had CHF141.2bn (€107.2bn) in assets under management as per year-end 2009, had been fully funded, according to Towers Watson.

At year-end 2009, only Julius Baer had reported a 100% funding level, followed by the Swatch Group (97.8%) and Novartis (97.8%).

The lowest funding levels were found at Logitech (50.8%), Kuehne+Nagel (24.6%) and Swiss Life (12.4%).

Overall, the funding level improved from 85% to 88% in 2009, with 13 out of 30 companies in the Swiss Leader Index (SLI) being at least 90% funded by the end of the year.

For the 2010 findings, Towers Watson said it expected another improvement despite falling discount rates pushing liabilities upward.

Peter Zanella, head of Towers Watson Switzerland, said: "Discount rates have fallen by 0.3% to 0.5%, which led to an increase in liabilities by 5%. But, on the other hand, returns from plan assets have improved."

However, the consultancy also stressed that an average 100% funding level would be unlikely.

Towers Watson also pointed out that, compared with 431 'Fortune 1000' companies, Swiss companies have improved their funding situation after the crisis.

In 2007, large foreign companies had an average funding level of 106%, the Swiss 99% - but at year-end 2009, the Swiss had overtaken international companies by 6 percentage points.

Meanwhile, two other large Swiss companies, SBB and Post, reported that their pension schemes led to an increase in costs.

At the SBB scheme, which had recently been granted financial aid by the government, the company paid CHF938m into the pension fund last year, decreasing its free cash flow.

The Swiss Post will use CHF100m of its CHF900m 2010 profit to finance its pension liabilities.

Elsewhere, the CHF5bn pension fund for the city of Luzern reported a 2.2% return for 2010 after 7.5% in 2009, bringing its funding ratio to 97.4% from 96.8% the year before.

In other news, workers' representatives in the Swiss canton of Zurich have accused the regional government of holding back information on the financial situation surrounding the public pension fund BVK.

A Swiss newspaper reported a funding hole of CHF15bn, while official figures come to CHF3.2bn-3.9bn.

The BVK and the regional government said the report was inaccurate and had damaged the fund's reputation.

The workers' representatives demanded full disclosure and called on the canton to fill the funding hole without members having to contribute.