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PPF ‘could end up owning half the British motor industry’

An actuary is warning that the Pension Protection Fund could end up owning half the British motor industry if it takes on the pension liabilit- ies of failing companies in return for an equity stake in the continuing venture.

Watson Wyatt partner Ste- phen Yeo says the US version of the PPF has ended up owning massive chunks of the US airline industry.

With situations such as MG Rover, he says the PPF could have similar exposure to the UK motor industry.

Yeo says while it is a good idea in principle, more detail is needed on how the PPF’s governance procedures will work.

He is also concerned that the PPF could be seen as a prop by failing companies.

The Pensions Regulator chairman David Norgrove has already criticised the PPF’s plans to take equity stakes in businesses where it deems it might be able to recoup more money from enabling the company to carry on trading.

But Hymans Robertson partner and head of actuarial services Clive Fortes says the move is a sensible compromise between the PPF and industry and effectively a no-lose gamble for the PPF, which would face those liabilities anyway.

Fortes says: “This is for the fairly small bunch of companies that might be able to survive without their pension legacy. It is a sensible compromise.”

Yeo says: “It is good for jobs but the danger is the PPF ends up a magnet for these companies and it could end up owning half the British motor industry.”

A TPR spokesman says the PPF will never take more than a 33 per cent stake in any company and will always be a silent partner.

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