Tesco ‘may have to raise £5bn’ to plug pensions black hole

Tesco ‘may have to raise £5bn’ to plug pensions black hole

Tesco may be forced to raise cash to plug a £5bn black hole in its pension fund, JP Morgan Cazenove, the supermarket chain’s corporate brokers until 2013, has said.

“We find it difficult to believe that Tesco can continue to drive volumes, improve margins and pay down debt simultaneously without raising capital,” said Borja Olcese, JP Morgan’s European retail analyst.

His comments came as the supermarket was expected to unveil a yearly loss of up to £5bn, the worst performance in its 100-year history.

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The full-year results mark the end of a turbulent year which saw the ousting of chief executive Philip Clarke following the overstating of its half-year profits by £263m, declining sales as a result of stiffer completion from discount retailers and a huge writedown of the value of its property estate.

Earlier this year incoming chief executive Dave Lewis said he was considering closing its defined benefit scheme to new members, one of the largest in the private sector with 350,000 members, as part of plans to save the company £250m a year.

The supermarket has written to staff informing them of the changes to the scheme, which it said would help Tesco to continue to offer a competitive pension for staff in the future. 

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Greg Heath, managing director of Lancashire-based Derbyshire Booth, said: “Sadly, it is a sign of the times. Schemes are under immense pressure for a number of reasons, such as gilt rates. Pensions are a long-term investment and situations do not change over time. We are living longer and life is costing more.

“When DB schemes were set up the world was a different place, but they are now on their last legs so Tesco will have to bite the bullet. But they will recover from it.”