Two pension schemes for communications services group WPP have completed a pre-COVID-19 £250m (€278m) buy-in with Pension Insurance Corporation (PIC), according to the specialist insurer.

It disclosed the deal today, with a spokesperson for PIC saying the deal was signed in December.

“Having already completed a previous buy-in with WPP, the companies had a good relationship and PIC’s customer service was a key driving force in them winning the transaction,” he added.

In February 2018 WPP and PIC concluded a buy-in of £140m of pension liabilities across five of the corporate’s schemes.

Looking ahead, Jay Shah, chief origination officer at PIC, said that despite the recent severe market movements following the outbreak of COVID-19 in the UK, the defined benefit insurer was still seeing “a healthy pipeline of new business from trustees”.

Harry Harper, head of risk transfer at XPS Pensions Group, recently told IPE the consultancy was expecting around half of bulk annuity transactions to go ahead over the coming months and that those schemes that proceeded could get good results.

“There will be winners and losers,” he said.

In a briefing last week, the consultancy said bulk annuities had become more affordable for pension schemes already holding Gilts, and less so for schemes holding equities.

“A driving factor is the economic turmoil that has made credit assets that insurers buy cheaper, and due to there being eight insurers in the market there is considerable downward pressure on bulk annuity pricing,” said Harper.

“There has already been evidence of price cuts.”

In a trading update today, WPP said the impact of COVID-19 on the business would increase but it was not possible at this stage to quantify its depth or duration, and that it had, therefore, decided to withdraw its guidance for the 2020 financial year.

It had also decided to suspend its £950m share buyback with immediate effect and the 2019 final dividend, and that members of the WPP executive committee as well as the board would be taking a 20% reduction in their salaries or fees for an initial period of three months.