Thousands of workers saving pensions at Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia Group have been offered fresh hope they will recover more from their savings than feared following the sale of property assets at the tycoon’s collapsed company.
Sources said the Arcadia scheme is on course to remain independent of the pensions lifeboat – which protects people with a defined benefit pension when an employer becomes insolvent, but at a reduced level – after trustees said they had realised £173m via the sale of assets since the company failed.
The proceeds are understood to stem from the sale of Arcadia’s Topshop brand to Asos by administrators and a number of property sales. Arcadia’s pension scheme was given security over £210m of assets including the proceeds of the sale of Topshop or its London flagship store as well as other assets under a deal between the Green family, the trustees and the pensions regulator.
Further sums are expected to be realised for the pension scheme, according to a letter to members first reported by the Sunday Telegraph. However, it is thought unlikely the amount raised will be enough to completely wipe out the scheme’s deficit, which is still being assessed by trustees. The deficit is estimated to stand at about £300m.
That hole remains after the Green family paid £50m in cash into the scheme in December, on top of £50m paid under the deal cut with regulators at the time of company restructure in 2019.
The scheme is being assessed by the Pensions Protection Fund (PPF) – the industry lifeboat scheme – after Arcadia fell into administration in November.
Sources said it now appeared likely that sufficient funds would be realised from administrators’ sale of Arcadia’s assets so that the scheme would be able to be independent of the industry-funded lifeboat.
That would be good news for Arcadia pensions savers as the PPF pays out only 90% of that owed to savers who have not reached retirement age – up to a cap of £41,461.
If the scheme can be sold on to an insurance fund, it is likely that scheme members will receive more, although they are unlikely to receive their full pension.
Those already past retirement age receive the full amount.
A spokesman for the Arcadia trustees said: “Based on initial calculations, the trustees are optimistic that they will be able to secure benefits at above PPF levels and, therefore, the schemes should not need to remain in PPF assessment in the long-term.
“The schemes have already received £173m as a result of the security package agreed under the terms of the 2019 CVA. This sum will be augmented by the additional payments the trustees expect to receive under the administration process, which will further increase the schemes’ likelihood of being able to secure benefits for members in excess of PPF compensation levels outside the PPF.”