AUSTRIA - The Austrian branch of international company Unilever is outsourcing its pensionskasse to the multi-employer fund ÖPAG.

The 2,670 members of the Unilever company will be joining Austria's second-largest pensionskasse ÖPAG at the end of the year, according to a statement issued by the "Vorsorge Holding", the head organisation of the pensionskasse. (See earlier IPE-story: Pensionskasse gets new roof)

Assets in the fund, which stood at just over €2.9bn at year-end 2008, will increase by around €250m through the transition.

Unilever will have its own portfolio within the ÖPAG, known as an investment and risk community (Veranlagungs- und Risikogemeinschaft, VRG), in much the same way as other companies have received.

Ernst Klicka, current head of the Unilever pensionskasse, confirmed Unilever is seeking to pool the investment of its international pension assets but added: "This is not about the investment, this is about administration and organisation," he explained.

The ÖPAG will take on the company's pension payouts, the administration and other organisational tasks which Unilever Austria has decided are too costly to do itself within the relatively small company.

"The assets will be transferred to the ÖPAG as they were in the Unilever pensionskasse including part of the investments being pooled," added Klicka.

Klicka stressed the outsourcing move was not related to performance issues as the Unilever pensionskasse has been "very successful over the last 18 years".

The workers' council has agreed to the development while active and retired members will be unaffected by the change.

A workers' representative noted in the statement that they had already had positive experiences with the ÖPAG as some parts of Unilever had been outsourced over the years, so it is anticipated that the information exchange will be better than under the company-based scheme.

Unilever is the third large company to join ÖPAG over the years. Starting with Austrian energy giant Verbund in 2002, the pensionskasse later won an "international electronic group" as a member, though no details on the name, the size or the date of the mandate were given on request.