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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Fears for pension savers as Carillion enters liquidation

Construction giant Carillion today entered compulsory liquidation after running up debts of around £1.5bn, leaving the fate of another major pension fund in the balance.

Carillion enters liquidation ©Carillion
Carillion enters liquidation ©Carillion

The company’s pension scheme is thought to have a deficit of approximately £580m, and is now highly likely to be taken over by the government’s Pension Protection Fund (PPF).

This would involve an immediate 10% cut to the retirement incomes of members not yet drawing their pension, and comes after a year of high-profile rescue packages for schemes at BHS and Tata Steel.

DeVere Group chief executive, Nigel Green, said: “This deeply depressing, and now all-too-frequent, turn of events should be a wake-up call to pension savers.

“While the PPF is an important and valuable support, UK final-salary pension schemes have an enormous deficit black hole, which raises the inevitable question: how many more big hits can the PPF take?”

Carillion is the UK’s second-largest construction firm, employs around 20,000 people in Britain, and is involved in a number of major projects, including the HS2 high speed railway line.

As a result, it is thought that today’s news could have far-reaching implications for schools, prisons, hospitals, and other developments across the country.

For Carillion’s pension savers, the liquidation announcement could also result in a loss of some inflation proofing, while the PFF cap on payouts, which currently stands at £34,655, could affect high earners.

However, Hargreaves Lansdown head of policy, Tom McPhail, explained that the PFF’s surplus of over £6bn should mean it has no difficulty meeting the firm’s pension shortfall.

“The PPF was established for precisely this kind of situation,” he said. “It is a well-run scheme with a healthy surplus and a well-established system of funding based on levies on other pension schemes.

“Assuming the PPF does take on the Carillion scheme, the assessment process could take months or even years.

“In the meantime, the Carillion scheme administrators, the liquidators and the PPF can be expected to work together to ensure continuity of payouts for scheme members.”

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