Unilever pension deficit falls to £170m

Unilever’s pension liability net of assets dropped to €200m (£170m) as at 31 December 2019, down from €900m (£760m) at the same point 12 months prior.

The company said this decrease was driven by good investment returns on pension assets, though this was partially offset by higher liabilities as discount rates decreased.

The results also show a reduction in pension liabilities net of assets from the €500m (£420m) at the end of June 2019, as reported in its interim results.

Unilever’s pensions financing charge was €30m (£25.4m), €5m (£4.2m) higher than in the year before.

Remeasurement of the company’s defined benefit (DB) pension plans gained it €353m (£299.2m), compared to a €328m (£278.0m) loss in 2018.

Pension assets for funded schemes in surplus had climbed to €2.4bn (£2.1bn) from the €1.7bn (£1.5bn) reported for the 31 December 2018.

Pensions liabilities for funded schemes in deficit also increased year-on-year, from €1.21bn (£1.03bn) to €1.46bn (£1.24bn).

In December, Unilever proposed several alterations to the defined benefit section of its UK hybrid scheme in order to address cost increases.

These measures included the introduction of a ‘benefits envelope’ for all employers, a reduction in the existing DB pension offer, stopping the use of early retirement discretion and the full closure of the DB section to new members.

At the time, Unilever said the move allowed the scheme to “better reflect employees’ modern day needs” for increased flexibility, but the joint trade unions, Usdaw, Unite and GMB disagreed as they stated that the proposals smacked of “opportunism”.

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