PPF ‘concerned’ over Johnston Press deal

The Pension Protection Fund has expressed “concerns” surrounding the details of the Johnston Press deal, which will see its pension fund enter the lifeboat.

The PPF confirmed to Pensions Age it had concerns around the timing of the pre-pack arrangement, issued just 48 hours before a payment was due into the pension scheme, as well as whether the assets of the group were “marketed appropriately”.

Last weekend, Johnston Press announced the end of its formal sale process, as offers failed to deliver “sufficient value”. Its assets will now be taken over by a new firm, JPI Media, who will syphon off the scheme.

The PPF said: “We are concerned with the timing of the administration falling 48 hours before a payment was due to the pension scheme.

“We also have concerns over whether the assets of the 50 or so companies within the plc have been marketed appropriately before the pre-pack.”

“We will continue to work working closely with The Pensions Regulator and the company administrator to ensure the best outcome for the PPF and our levy payers.

“We want to reassure members of the Johnston Press Pension Plan that their benefits are protected by the PPF at what must be an unsettling time for them.”

Yesterday, 19 November, Work and Pensions Committee chair Frank Field has wrote to the TPR, questioning the protections in place to ensure pension schemes are not being “dumped" onto the PPF.

In a letter to the chief executive, Lesley Titcomb, Field questioned the “provisions” in place to ensure schemes are not being dumped at a cost to pensioners and levy-payers, following the news that Johnston Press Pension Plan is set to fall into the PPF.

Furthermore, asking an urgent question in the House of Commons, Labour MP Tom Watson questioned the government’s role in the takeover, after it emerged that JPI Media was set up in September.

Watson also asked whether TPR would be assessing the suitability of JPI Media, regarding the takeover.

In a statement, TPR said: “Together with the PPF, we will be working with the administrators to understand the circumstances surrounding the sale and its implications for the Johnston Press Pension Plan and its members at this challenging time.

“Our role at this stage is to assess the terms of the sale of the business to ensure the pension scheme has been treated appropriately. We continue to work closely with the scheme trustee and the PPF.”

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