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National Grid offloads $3.4 billion of UK pension risk to Rothesay Life

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(Reuters) – Britain’s largest specialist annuity insurer Rothesay Life said on Tuesday the National Grid UK Pension Scheme <NG.L> had transferred 2.8 billion pounds worth of pension risks to the insurer.

British companies are increasingly offloading risks linked to their pension schemes to specialist insurance companies, partly because of increased life expectancy. A company’s pensions obligations sit on its balance sheet and can limit its financial options, so often boards seek to pass on the burden.

Consultants predict a record year for the deals at 40 billion pounds, with several multi-billion deals already announced.

The deal comes weeks after Rothesay Life chalked up a 3.8 billion pounds insurance deal with Allied Domeq, which protects the retirement savings of the largest-ever number of yet-to-retire members.

Telecoms firm Telent and insurer Rothesay Life also agreed to Britain’s biggest ever pension transfer deal, covering 4.7 billion pounds.

Rothesay is also mulling an appeal against a court ruling stopping the transfer of 12 billion pounds in annuities from Prudential Plc <PRU.L>, with a decision expected imminently.

Under the National Grid deal – related to section A of the National Grid UK Pension Scheme – Rothesay Life will reimburse all the pension benefits payable to eligible pensioners aged 70 or less, including to their spouses, until the death of the last pension beneficiary.

“The buy-in provides greater certainty and assurance about the future costs of providing members’ pensions, and we see this as a positive and prudent way of managing the overall funding and risk of the scheme,” Nigel Stapleton, Chairman and Trustee, National Grid UK Pension Scheme, said.

A buy-in involves taking on part of the scheme, often starting with those already drawing their pension.

The National Grid UK Scheme is responsible for around 20 billion pounds worth of assets and has around 100,000 members, mostly from the company’s gas transmission and distribution businesses, and is closed to new members.

Established in 2007 and backed by private-equity giant Blackstone and Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, GIC, Rothesay currently insures the pensions of more than 800,000 people. Others active in the sector include Legal & General <LGEN.L>, Phoenix Group <PHNX.L> and Pension Insurance Corporation.

(Reporting by Tanishaa Nadkar and Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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