The Marks & Spencer Group’s pension scheme had a statutory surplus of £204m (€279m) as at the end of March last year, an improvement of £494m since the last triennial actuarial valuation.

The defined benefit scheme had a deficit of £290m as at 31 March 2012.

As a result of the valuation and the reduction in discount rates in particular, annual cash contributions for future service will increase from £42m in 2015-16 to £57m in 2016-17, according to a statement.

The pension scheme’s investments in return-seeking assets, which outperformed over the three-year period, were responsible for the improvement.

The scheme was also insulated from the effect of falling Gilt rates as it was fully hedged for interest rate purposes.

The scheme will continue to pursue a de-risking strategy with no change to the 2012 funding arrangements for past service, according to the statement.

In other news, the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) is seeking to recruit a panel of companies to provide administrative and actuarial services for the fund’s scheme assessment process.

The move marks a shift in strategy, with the UK lifeboat fund having so far operated a model of two separate panels for the different services.

“The new model,” the PPF said, “will provide greater consistency and efficiency during the PPF assessment period to maximise resources and achieve certainty for scheme members.”

The new panel will comprise four companies.

The PPF expects to appoint the panel in July with an initial contract of two years.

Work is due to start in August, and the deadline for applications is 11 March.

Lastly, UK insurance and investment manager Legal & General has completed a second buyout in the US, of approximately $65m (€58) in pension liabilities.

Legal & General’s first buyout deal in the US was a $450m agreement with the US subsidiary of Royal Philips in October 2015.

Kerrigan Procter, managing director at Legal & General Retirement, said: “The US is a key market for Legal & General, and we are uniquely positioned with our US life assurance business, rapidly growing investment management business and US pension risk transfer operations.”