Belfast Telegraph

Pension boost for ex-BHS staff in Northern Ireland as £363m paid in to cover shortfall

By Staff Reporter

Hundreds of former BHS workers in Northern Ireland are set to benefit from a deal struck over a shortfall in the company's pension scheme.

Sir Philip Green yesterday revealed he had paid out £363m to settle the pension schemes of the collapsed retailer.

BHS operated four stores in Northern Ireland - in Belfast city centre, Newtownabbey, Holywood and Lisburn. But the shutters came down in August, putting 150 staff out of work.

Billionaire Sir Philip said the amount, significantly less than the £571m deficit the firm was left with when it went bust in April last year, represented a "significantly better" outcome than the schemes entering the Pension Protection Fund (PPF).

The collapse of the high street giant left thousands out of work and the deficit in its pension scheme affected approximately 22,000 holders.

News of the settlement comes after Sir Philip was grilled by MPs over the sale of the department store chain, which he owned for 15 years before selling it for £1 to former bankrupt Dominic Chappell.

Sir Philip said: "I have made a voluntary contribution of up to £363m to enable the trustees of the BHS pension schemes to achieve a significantly better outcome than the schemes entering the PPF, which was the goal from the outset.

"The settlement follows lengthy, complex discussions with the Pensions Regulator and the PPF, both of which are satisfied with the solution that has been offered.

"To achieve a significantly better outcome than entering the PPF, the contribution required to achieve this long-term solution was arrived at by the actuaries for both the regulator and the trustees."

The fallout from the chain's collapse, which impacted 11,000 jobs, sparked a lengthy parliamentary inquiry and left its high-profile former owners potentially facing a criminal investigation.

MPs also called for the Topshop billionaire to be stripped of his knighthood.

But Sir Philip said yesterday's settlement brings "this matter to a conclusion" and apologised to the affected pensioners. He added: "All relevant notices, including legal matters and claims from the Pensions Regulator, have been withdrawn, bringing this matter to a conclusion.

"Once again I would like to apologise to the BHS pensioners for this last year of uncertainty, which was clearly never the intention when the business was sold in March 2015.

"I am also happy to confirm that any of the pensioners that have faced cuts over the last year will now be brought back to their original BHS starting level pension."

Belfast Telegraph