Business Irish

Sunday 18 August 2019

New offer improves retirement income for INM pensioners

INM chief executive Robert Pitt and chairman Leslie Buckley Picture: Collins
INM chief executive Robert Pitt and chairman Leslie Buckley Picture: Collins
Dearbhail McDonald

Dearbhail McDonald

Older members of Independent News and Media's defined benefit (DB) pensions schemes could see their expected retirement income maintained at up to 90pc of their restructured pensions under a counter-proposal offered by the company.

INM, which publishes independent.ie and the country's leading newspapers including the Sunday Independent and Irish Independent, has faced criticism amid claims that it was seeking to walk away from the defined benefit pension schemes, which the company's management says are unsustainable.

Without extra funding, plans to wind up the schemes would have seen future pensioners lose 30pc of their expected retirement income.

The pensions of hundreds of DB members had already been cut by some 40pc in 2013 when INM restructured its schemes.

Talks were held last Friday between management and the trustees who have asked INM to contribute €12m into replacement DB schemes and give special consideration to members aged 62 and over.

It is understood INM's counter-offer, though significantly less than the €12m sought by the trustees, would see the schemes fully funded, with 65-year-olds maintaining 90pc of their pensions, 64-year-olds 85pc and those aged 62 and 63 maintaining 80pc. The additional sums would also see younger members of the scheme maintain as close to their 2013 levels as possible, rather than the 30pc feared when the company announced it was no longer contributing to the plans. The board of INM meets on Thursday.

The company has refused to disclose details of the proposals or the content of the meetings held with the trustees. The trustees are due to meet with the Pensions Authority on Tuesday and it is understood that members of the schemes want to be fully consulted before any revised deal is agreed.

INM chairman Leslie Buckley led a stormy EGM last Monday where members of the schemes strongly opposed the passing of two resolutions aimed at cleaning up INM's balance sheet, allowing the group to resume paying dividends for the first time since the financial crisis.

The resolutions were carried overwhelmingly by investors including businessman Denis O'Brien (29.88pc stake) and Dermot Desmond, a 15pc shareholder in INM via his IIU Nominees vehicle.

The board is understood to be anxious to resolve the pensions issue following a turbulent week in which Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar said he would consult with the Office of the Attorney General to see if the Government could intervene in a forthcoming application by INM to have its capital reduction plan approved by the High Court.

Page 7 Business: Will INM pension decision spell more closures for schemes?

Sunday Independent

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