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Pension deficits of plcs reach 14pc of ISEQ's value

The combined pension deficits of quoted companies in Ireland now amount to 14pc of the entire value of the ISEQ, a report on pay and pensions has found.

The report by Hewitt, a consultancy firm, said at year-end 2009 the deficit in pension schemes came to approximately €6.3bn, which was 14pc of the market capitalisation of all ISEQ companies.

Deficits in defined benefit schemes are causing serious problems and alternative approaches will have to be considered, Hewitt said.

"For some it is likely that future funding challenges will prove to be insurmountable,'' the company said.

The firm added that executive pay is likely to remain restrained in the period ahead, in contrast to 2008 when executive salary inflation was running at 12pc.

"We do not envisage a return to across the board above inflation salary increases for directors and senior management."

The level of disclosure of executive remuneration is improving in Ireland but still falls far short of what is required in the UK and US, the firm said.

Using annual reports published during 2009, Hewitt found that the median bonus paid was 19pc of a chief executive's basic salary.

For a finance director this dropped to 9pc and was 24pc for other executive directors.

The level of bonuses has dropped dramatically according to this latest Hewitt report compared to the last time out.

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In the last report bonuses made up 60pc of a CEO's basic salary.

Setting pay levels is now "strewn with potential pitfalls'', the firm said.

Almost half of all listed Irish companies are no longer awarding any share options.

Of those who were granted share options, the value of these, according to 2009 annual reports, plummeted by 42pc.

The reported noted that fees for non-executive chairmen increased by 3pc per annum, reflecting a greater time commitment by those in this role.

About 24pc of listed firms granted share options to non-executive directors.

In the future, pay will often hinge on the level of risk a company and a director take on, Hewitt said. But adjusting pay for risk will not be easy.

"The financial sector will certainly end up with greater use of risk-adjusted performance measures, greater deferral of payments and greater potential for claw-back of payments in short term performance later proves to have been illusory''.

Hewitt said Bank of Ireland, Independent News & Media and Kingspan were among companies introducing salary reductions during the period under review.

Some 63pc of companies that disclosed 2009 salaries confirmed that no pay increases were awarded.

Hewitt said if companies went back to pre-credit crunch bonus structures it would probably lead to shareholder anger and a drive towards greater disclosure.

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