Courtaulds expected to take cash from pension fund

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The Independent Online
COURTAULDS, the chemicals company, is expected to announce plans to transfer cash from its pension fund to its own coffers, following a similar move in January by its sister company, Courtaulds Textiles.

The size of the cash transfer is likely to be substantially larger than at Courtaulds Textiles, which benefited by pounds 19.5m after tax. Previous valuations of the pension funds suggest it may be pounds 40m.

The original Courtaulds pension fund, which outperformed the rest of the market by an average of 2 per cent a year in the past decade, was split on the 1990 de-merger of Courtaulds and Courtaulds Textiles in proportion to the two new funds' liabilities.

The bulk of the fund - a pro forma pounds 734m as at the 1989 valuation - went to Courtaulds' pension fund, which took on the liability for pensioners and other former employees, while pounds 171m - as at a 1990 valuation - went to Courtaulds Textiles' fund.

Both funds were revalued a year ago. Courtaulds Textiles announced in December that it had a pounds 74m surplus - on an actuarial funding basis. It used some of the surplus to improve pensions - including retirement age of 60 for both men and women.

Courtaulds said its timetable was three months behind that of Courtaulds Textiles. The chemicals company has been in negotiations with trustees over the distribution of the surplus for several weeks.

The previous valuation of the Courtaulds scheme threw up a surplus of 120 per cent of assets or pounds 147m, and allowed the company to take into its balance sheet a pounds 42m pre-payment.

The comparable pre-payment figure for Courtaulds Textiles was pounds 17m.

Transfers from pension funds are allowed subject to Inland Revenue approval. Tax is payable at 40 per cent, well above normal corporation tax.

Courtaulds Textiles defended the move by saying the scheme remained financially strong, benefits were being improved and the company had contracted to pay defined benefits.

Under tax law, companies are required to reduce their pension surpluses. Normally this is achieved through a contribution holiday, but if there is still a large surplus the Revenue will allow a cash transfer.

A Courtaulds spokeswoman said an announcement would be made in due course.