Govt requests update on TPR’s Debenhams involvement

Works and Pensions Committee chair, Frank Field MP, has written to The Pensions Regulator (TPR), asking for an update on its involvement with Debenhams’ current refinancing operation.

In a letter to, now former, TPR chief executive, Lesley Titcomb, Field requested to be informed of “TPR’s involvement to date with Debenhams’ pension schemes, including engagement with trustees”.

The Debenhams Retirement Scheme (DRS), one of two DB schemes run by the retailer, is currently undertaking refinancing after the company posted record annual losses (£491.5m) in 2018.

Field also requested that TPR provides details of what involvement it has in ongoing discussions surrounding Debenhams’ refinancing, including the future of its pension schemes.

The retailer announced today (11 March) that it is in talks over borrowing a further £150m from its current lenders.

Despite the losses, the retailer reported a pension scheme surplus of £159.4m as of 1 September 2018.

The group’s two schemes, the DRS and the Debenhams Executive Pension Plan (DEPP), were closed for future service accrual from 31 October 2006.

An actuarial valuation of the scheme taken on 31 March 2017 revealed that the DRS scheme was in deficit on a technical provisions basis, though it did not reveal the size of the deficit.

In light of this, Debenhams said that a recovery plan was agreed, and that the group would contribute £5m per annum into the scheme from September 2017 to 31 March 2022.

The revised agreement was almost half of an agreement made in 2015, in which the retail firm agreed to contribute £9.5m per annum up until 31 March 2022.

In October 2018, Debenhams announced that it would be closing 50 of its 166 branches, putting 4,000 jobs at risk.

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