UK - Sugar manufacturer Tate & Lyle has refused to confirm it is looking to buyout its £869m (€1.1bn) defined benefit (DB) pension scheme.

Tate & Lyle said it would neither confirm or deny speculation suggesting it is looking at quotes for a buyout for its scheme from a number of bulk annuity providers, but hinted a formal announcement may be made soon.

A spokeswoman for the firm said: "Like many companies, we're looking at ways to de-risk the pension scheme. But when we do have any news we will announce it through the appropriate channels."

The scheme, which closed to new members on April 1 2002, had a surplus of £5m at the end of March 2007, with the UK DB portfolio consisting of 33% in equities, 51% in bonds and 16% in property and other investments.

In addition, the company's 2007 annual report revealed the group expected to contribute a further £40m to its DB schemes, in both the UK and US, during the year to March 31 2008.

Should Tate & Lyle decide to pursue a buyout option for its scheme, it would be the third FTSE 100 company to pursue the strategy within a month, following deals by Lonmin and Friends Provident with Paternoster and Norwich Union. (See earlier IPE articles: Friends Prov secures first FTSE 100 'buy-in' and Mining giant secures first FTSE 100 buyout)

However, Tate & Lyle is not the only large company to be considering such a de-risking strategy, as Cable & Wireless last week confirmed they were still pursuing options for their DB scheme, though they ruled out a full buyout in the current market environment. (See earlier IPE article: C&W looks to partial buyout for de-risking)

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