UK Coal Reaches Deal With Pension Fund and Customers
10 August 2012 (PLANSPONSOREurope.com) – UK Coal has reached agreement with its pension funds and customers over the restructuring of the business brought about by debt to customers and defined benefit liabilities.
The group’s half-yearly report concludes that its operating structure and balance sheet are not appropriate for the level of operating risk in the business. The report highlights in particular, its debt to its customers and banks of £138.3m and a funding deficit to its pension funds of roughly £430m.
The groups say it has made “significant progress” towards a restructuring of the business involving a “highly complex” process that involves the goodwill and understanding of a range of stakeholders including pension funds, the Pensions Regulator, principal banking partner Lloyds Banking Group, Barclays, customers, the Department for Energy and Climate Change and the Coal Authority.
A non-binding Heads of Terms agreement has been reached with Trustees, and an agreement in principle with the Generators, which would result in a combined c.£90m of support to UK Coal over the period to the end of 2015 once the proposed restructuring is implemented. Under the proposed plan the mining business would be left free of bank debt and would have an affordable pension deficit reduction scheme. Each mine will be restructured into separate legal entities to reduce the risk of any one mine's failure from bringing down all mines. The group expects this will create a more stable platform to release the value in the mining business. As part of this arrangement, from 2014 the pension funds will receive £30m per annum plus any cash in the mining business above a minimum headroom requirement of £50m, after agreeing to defer any deficit contributions in 2012 and 2013.
The proposed plan would also see Trustees invest £30m in the property business to enable the release of the latent undeveloped value in the property portfolio. In exchange, the Trustees will receive a direct stake of 75.1% in that business, with existing shareholders being entitled to the benefit of the remaining 24.9%. This stake would be held through a new holding company which would not guarantee the pension liability. In return for the stake, the first £5m of shareholders' dividend income would be paid to the pension funds.
According to the group it has had constructive discussions in relation to the Heads and Terms with the Regulator, who has not raised any major objections to the proposals. It adds observations which have been raised by the Regulator appear capable of resolution. The proposed restructuring has also been explored with major stakeholders and the Board has concluded that it offers UK Coal a viable, and sustainable, future. It remains subject to agreement of legally binding documentation with stakeholders.