Northern Ireland’s top 100 companies are facing a pension blackhole of £229m, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal today.
Findings show a multi-million pound gap in the funds needed to cover workers’ pension schemes at some of the province’s biggest companies.
In the worst cases, the shortfall of some local company pension schemes in 2007/08 stood at £71m.
The scale of some of the pension fund shortfalls will be of concern to employees who have diligently built up a nest egg for retirement over the years. But no Northern Ireland pension fund provider has failed so far and the situation has improved in recent years.
Northern Ireland companies are also in no worse a pension position than counterparts in the rest of the UK.
Pensions expert David Hager, director of Belfast-based Kerr Henderson and Hewitt, said “there is light at the end of the tunnel” for employers and workers.
He said: “In the years ahead, I expect interest rates to rise as a result of the big Government borrowing requirement and this should help to reduce current deficits.” And the National Association of Pension Funds said that while confidence in pensions is low at the minute, it is still the best way to save for retirement.
Of the largest Northern Ireland registered companies featured in the Belfast Telegraph’s Top 100 Companies, 27 firms provide defined benefit schemes for some of their employees.
And 16 of those pension schemes have reported that they are working with actuarial deficits ranging from £400,000 to £71m.
However, 11 have been able to reduce their pensions gaps in 2007/08 by a total of £108m - down from £337m in 2006/07.