IT

Tata Steel UK signs agreement to clear pensions liabilities

Tata Steel UK signs agreement to clear pensions liabilities

Tata Steel Ltd and the trustee of the British Steel Pension Scheme have agreed to terms to separate the plan from the Indian steelmaker's United Kingdom unit, eliminating the last hurdle for it to proceed with a strategy to place European operations into a joint venture.

Tata Steel is hopeful of "shortly" reaching a final agreement on a deal to separate its United Kingdom pension scheme from its businesses, a development that could pave the way for potential merger of its European businesses with German steel producer Thyssenkrupp.

The deal will remove the main obstacle to a potential merger of the company's European business with Germany's ThyssenKrupp, as well as the risk of insolvency, though it will cost the company £550 million and a 33 per cent equity stake, under the terms agreed.

The pact would be effective after Tata Steel pays 550 million pounds (S$972.5 million) and a 33 per cent equity stake in the United Kingdom operations to the trustee, the steelmaker said in a separate statement.

Under the agreement announced on Friday, Tata Steel UK has offered to pay 550 million pounds into the now-closed BSPS and give the fund a 33 per cent stake in its UK business.

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The long-anticipated signing of the RAA follows the announcement in May that Tata Steel had agreed its main commercial terms.

On Wednesday, a Tata spokesman said the parties involved in pensions talks were in "positive discussions and we are hopeful of reaching a final agreement shortly", meaning the company could soon its United Kingdom pension scheme from its businesses.

"There remains no certainty with regard to the eventual existence, size or form of the new scheme and the funding position and membership of any new scheme is still dependent on the results of the proposed voluntary membership transfer exercise", said Tata Steel.

Tata Steel Group Executive Director Koushik Chatterjee said the deal was an "important milestone in Tata Steel U.K.'s journey towards a sustainable and enduring future, with pension obligations whose risk profile would be consistent with the underlying business". The pension scheme will then move into the Pension Protection Fund from March 2018.

Trade unions Community, Unite and GMB in a joint statement said: "We welcome the RAA announcement which includes a commitment that Tata will stand behind a new scheme with reduced annual increases".

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Unions welcomed the agreement, saying it helped end members' uncertainty about their retirement income.

The signing of the RAA is expected to trigger the placing of the BSPS into the custody of the PPF, the industry lifeboat for members of defined benefit scheme.

Sir Steve Webb, the former pensions minister who now works for insurer Royal London, said: "This deal represents a good balance between trying to save steel jobs and trying to protect members' pensions".

In February, the company's British employees voted to accept proposals to close the existing pension scheme to new contributions, in exchange for greater certainty about the future of its 8,500-strong workforce.

We do not agree to these types of arrangements lightly but after several months of robust negotiations in this case, we believe that it is the best possible outcome for everyone involved in what is a very hard situation. "It is the best outcome that could be achieved in the circumstances".

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COPYRIGHT VIOLATION NOTICE: This piece was originally published by Chaffey Breeze and is the sole property of of Chaffey Breeze. Private Asset Management Inc. increased its stake in shares of Marathon Petroleum Corporation by 54.1% in the first quarter.


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