UK - Lufthansa has agreed to pay £84m (€103m) into the pension fund of subsidiary bmi to provide additional benefits to bmi employees and allow the scheme to enter the UK's Pension Protection Fund (PPF).

The payment will be made in cash later this year.

Lufthansa had agreed late last year to sell the loss-making airline to the International Airlines Group, formed by the merger of British Airways and Iberia.

The purchase agreement provided for Lufthansa to retain responsibility for the scheme's liabilities, but this would have meant the scheme joining the PPF without any top-up payment, leaving members vulnerable to potential losses arising from the difference between expected pension payments and those paid by the PPF.

The UK Pensions Regulator rejected this arrangement.

The pension fund - formally the British Midland Airways Limited Pension and Life Assurance Scheme - will now join the PPF, protecting employees' pension payments up to a certain level.

However, the top-up payment of £84m will be paid into a separate section of the scheme, which will not be part of the PPF.

This separate section, to be funded by voluntary payments from Lufthansa, will be used to compensate the bulk of losses for most scheme members.
Clive Grimley, chairman at the scheme, said: "Given the high pension deficit and the financial difficulties of bmi, the scheme had been at risk of joining the PPF without any top-up payment.

"We very much appreciate the voluntary payment of £84m by Lufthansa, which will make a positive impact on the benefits for many of our members."

In other news, Tyne and Wear Pension Fund has published an invitation to tender for management of its £350m segregated direct UK property portfolio.

The mandate will be carried out on an advisory basis.

Small allocations to indirect UK property will also be considered.

The current manager is Aberdeen Property Investors.

Ian Bainbridge, the fund's investment manager, said the tender process was intended to test the market.

"Aberdeen have managed our UK property portfolio for more than 20 years, and they themselves will be tendering," he said.

"But it has been a long time since we tested the market, and we think it's appropriate to find out what's available."

UK property makes up 8% of the fund's total portfolio of £4.8bn.

A further 4.5% is invested in global real estate through Partners Group, primarily via fund-of-fund investments.

The expansion into global property has occurred only in the past two years, after a strategic review increased the fund's overall allocation to property to 12.5%.

The UK allocation, however, was cut from 10% to 8%.

The tender specifications for the UK property mandate are currently being finalised with consultants Hymans Robertson.

Bainbridge said: "The criteria will be based on people and process, and we will look for delivery of a good long-term figures from the fund."

Interested parties have until 16 May to request additional documents and should contact Hymans Robertson.