Link to bt.com
 
spacer Download pdf spacer Print page spacer Contact us spacer return to BTplc.com
 Home >> Consolidated financial statements >> Notes to the financial statements

31. Pension costs

Background

The group continues to account for pension costs in accordance with UK Statement of Standard Accounting Practice No. 24 ‘‘Pension Costs’’ (SSAP 24). In addition, disclosures have been presented in accordance with Financial Reporting Standard No. 17 ‘‘Retirement Benefits’’ (FRS 17).

The group offers retirement plans to its employees. The group’s main scheme, the BT Pension Scheme (BTPS), is a defined benefit scheme where the benefits are based on employees’ length of service and final pensionable pay. The BTPS is funded through a legally separate trustee administered fund. This scheme has been closed to new entrants since 31 March 2001 and replaced by a defined contribution scheme. Under this defined contribution scheme the profit and loss charge represents the contribution paid by the group based upon a fixed percentage of employees’ pay.

The total pension costs of the group (including discontinued activities) expensed within staff costs in the year was £322 million (2002 – £382 million, 2001 – £326 million), of which £314 million (2002 – £373 million, 2001 – £315 million) related to the group’s main defined benefit pension scheme, the BTPS. The decline in the pension cost reflects the reduction in the number of active members of the BTPS and the interest credit relating to the balance sheet prepayment. This total pension cost includes the cost of providing enhanced pension benefits to leavers, which amounted to £60 million (2002 – £46 million, 2001 – £nil). In the year ended 31 March 2002 this profit and loss charge of £46 million was not the full cash cost of £186 million because there was a pension fund accounting surplus, including the provision on the balance sheet of £140 million that was fully utilised before making a charge to the profit and loss account.

The pension cost applicable to defined contribution schemes in the year ended 31 March 2003 was £4 million, (2002 – £5 million, 2001 – £nil), and £0.4 million (2002 – £0.3 million, 2001 – £nil) of contributions to the schemes were outstanding at 31 March 2003.

The group occupies seven properties owned by the scheme on which an annual rental of £3 million is payable. The BTPS assets are invested in UK and overseas equities, UK and overseas properties, fixed interest and index linked securities, deposits and short-term investments. At 31 March 2003, the UK equities included 37 million (2002 – 55 million, 2001 – 51 million) ordinary shares of the company with a market value of £58 million (2002 – £154 million, 2001 – £258 million).

BT Pension Scheme

Funding valuation

A triennial valuation is carried out for the independent scheme trustees by a professionally qualified independent actuary, using the projected unit method. The purpose of the valuation is to design a funding plan to ensure that present and future contributions should be sufficient to meet future liabilities. The triennial valuation as at 31 December 2002 forms the basis of determining the group’s pension fund contributions for the year ending 31 March 2004 and future periods until the next valuation is completed. The funding valuation is performed at 31 December because this is the financial year end of the BTPS.

The valuation basis for funding purposes is broadly as follows:

  • scheme assets are valued at market value at the valuation date; and
  • scheme liabilities are measured using a projected unit method and discounted at the estimated rate of return reflecting the assets of the scheme.

The last three triennial valuations were determined using the following long-term assumptions:

Real rates (per annum)
Nominal rates (per annum)
 










 
2002
1999
1996
2002
1999
1996
 
valuation
valuation
valuation
valuation
valuation
valuation
 
%
%
%
%
%
%
 












 
 
Return on existing assets, relative to
 market values
4.52
2.38
3.80
7.13
5.45
7.95
 

(after allowing for an annual increase
 in dividends of)

1.00
1.00
0.75
3.53
4.03
4.78
 
Return on future investments
4.00
4.00
4.25
6.60
7.12
8.42
 
Average increase in retail price index
2.50
3.00
4.00
 
Average future increases in wages and
 salaries
1.50
*
1.75
1.75
4.04
*
4.80
5.82
 
Average increase in pensions
2.50
3.00
3.75-4.00
 












 
*There is a short term reduction in the real salary growth assumption to 1.25% for the first three years.

The mortality assumption reflects improvements in life expectancy since the 1999 valuation and incorporates further future improvements.

The assumed rate of investment return, salary increases and mortality all have a significant effect on the funding valuation. A 0.25 percentage point change in these assumptions would have the following effects on the funding deficit:

Impact on funding deficit  



 
Increase
Decrease
 
£bn
£bn
 




 
0.25 percentage point change in:
 
Investment return
(0.9
)
0.9
 
Wage and salary increases
0.2
(0.2
)




 

An additional year of life expectancy would result in a £0.7 billion increase in the deficit.

At 31 December 2002, the assets of the BTPS had a market value of £22.8 billion (1999 – £29.7 billion) and were sufficient to cover 91.6% (1999 – 96.8%) of the benefits accrued by that date, after allowing for expected future increases in wages and salaries but not taking into account the costs of providing incremental pension benefits for employees leaving under release schemes since that date. This represents a funding deficit of £2.1 billion compared to £1.0 billion at 31 December 1999. The funding valuation uses conservative assumptions whereas, had the valuation been based on the actuary’s view of the median estimate basis, the funding deficit would have been reduced to £0.4 billion. Although the current market value of equity investments has fallen, the investment income and contributions received by the scheme exceeded the benefits paid by £0.3 billion in the year ended 31 December 2002. As a result of the triennial funding valuation the group has agreed to make employer’s contributions at a rate of 12.2% of pensionable pay from April 2003 and annual deficiency payments of £232 million. This compares to the employer’s contribution rate of 11.6% and annual deficiency payments of £200 million that were determined under the 1999 funding valuation. In the year ended 31 March 2003, the group made regular contributions of £278 million (2002 – £303 million, 2001 – £308 million) and additional special contributions for enhanced pension benefits to leavers in the year ended 31 December 2001 of £129 million in the 2003 financial year (2002 – £400 million, 2001 – £100 million) and deficiency contributions of £200 million (2002 – £200 million, 2001 – £200 million). The group will also pay a special contribution in December 2003, which is expected to amount to approximately £100 million in respect of early leavers in the year ended 31 December 2002 which has already been reflected in the profit and loss account.

Under the terms of the trust deed that governs the BTPS the group is required to have a funding plan that should address the deficit over a maximum period of 20 years whilst the agreed funding plan addresses the deficit over a period of 15 years. The group will continue to make annual deficiency payments until the deficit is made good.

The BTPS was closed to new entrants on 31 March 2001 and the age profile of active members will consequently increase. Under the projected unit method, the current service cost, as a proportion of the active members’ pensionable salaries, is expected to increase as the members of the scheme approach retirement. Despite the scheme being closed to new entrants, the projected payment profile extends over more than 60 years.

SSAP 24 accounting valuation

The SSAP 24 valuation is broadly on the following basis:

  • scheme assets are valued at market value; and
  • scheme liabilities are measured using the projected unit method and discounted at the estimated rate of return reflecting the assets of the scheme.

For the purpose of determining the group’s pension expenses under SSAP 24 in the years ended 31 March 2003, 2002 and 2001, the same assumptions were used as set out above for the December 1999 funding valuation, with the exception that, over the long term, it has been assumed that the return on the existing assets of the scheme, relative to market values, would be a nominal 5.6% per annum (allowing for real equity dividend growth of 1.25% per annum). This equates to a real return of 2.5% per annum rather than the more conservative funding valuation, which used a real return of 2.4% per annum.

At 31 March 2000 there was a SSAP 24 deficit of £0.2 billion and the regular cost for the 2003, 2002 and 2001 financial years was 11.6% of pensionable salaries based on the 31 March 2000 SSAP 24 valuation.

The pension cost for the 2004 financial year will be based upon the 31 March 2003 SSAP 24 valuation. At 31 March 2003 there was a SSAP 24 deficit of £1.4 billion, before taking account of the balance sheet prepayment and the regular cost will be 11.3% of pensionable salaries. The SSAP 24 valuation at 31 March 2003 is based on the 31 December 2002 funding valuation rolled forward, and uses the same assumptions as set out above, with the following exceptions:

  • return on existing assets is assumed to be a nominal 7.1% per annum, which equates to a real return of 4.7%;
  • average increase in retail price index is assumed to be 2.25% per annum; and
  • the average future increases in wages and salaries is assumed to include a short term reduction in the real salary growth assumption to 0.75% for the first three years, before returning to 1.5%.

The cumulative difference since the adoption of SSAP 24 between the cash contributions paid by the group to the pension scheme and the profit and loss charge is reflected on the balance sheet. The cumulative cash contributions exceed the profit and loss charge and the resulting difference is shown as a prepayment on the balance sheet. At 31 March 2003 the prepayment was £630 million (2002 – £231 million) with the increase being principally due to the additional special and deficiency contributions in the year.

The pension charge to the profit and loss account will also include the amortisation of the combined pension fund position and pension prepayment over the average remaining service lives of scheme members, which amounts to 13 years, and the cost of enhanced pension benefits provided to leavers.

FRS 17 – Retirement benefits

The group continues to account for pensions in accordance with SSAP 24. Full implementation of FRS 17 has been deferred by the Accounting Standards Board until accounting periods commencing on or after 1 January 2005. The requirements for disclosure under FRS 17 remain in force between its issue and full implementation, and the required information is set out below. FRS 17 specifies how key assumptions should be derived and applied. These assumptions are often different to the assumptions adopted by the pension scheme actuary and trustees in determining the funding position of pension schemes. The accounting requirements under FRS 17 are broadly as follows:

  • scheme assets are valued at market value at the balance sheet date;
  • scheme liabilities are measured using a projected unit method and discounted at the current rate of return on high quality corporate bonds of equivalent term to the liability; and
  • movement in the scheme surplus/deficit is split between operating charges and financing items in the profit and loss account and, in the statement of total recognised gains and losses, actuarial gains and losses.

The financial assumptions used to calculate the BTPS liabilities under FRS 17 at 31 March 2003 are:

spacer  
 
Real rates
(per annum)
Nominal rates
(per annum)
 


 
 
2003
2002
2003
2002
 
 
%
%
%
%
 

 

Average future increases in wages and salaries

 
1.50
*
1.50
3.78
*
4.04
 
Average increase in pensions in payment and
   deferred pensions
 
2.25
2.50
 
Rate used to discount scheme liabilities  
3.08
3.41
5.40
6.00
 
Inflation – average increase in retail price index  
2.25
2.50
 

 
*There is a short term reduction in the real salary growth assumption to 0.75% for the first three years.

The expected nominal rate of return and fair values of the assets of the BTPS at 31 March were:

31 March 2003
31 March 2002


Expected long-term
rate of return
(per annum)
Asset fair value
Expected long-term
rate of return
(per annum)
Asset fair value
%
£bn
%
%
£bn
%

spacer
spacer
spacer
spacer
spacer
spacer
UK equities
8.2
7.4
34
8.0
11.1
41
Non-UK equities
8.2
6.4
30
8.0
8.1
30
Fixed-interest
 securities
5.2
3.1
14
5.6
3.0
11
Index-linked
 securities
4.3
1.7
8
4.8
1.9
7
Property
7.0
3.3
15
7.0
2.8
10
Cash and other
4.0
(0.4
)
(1
)
4.5
0.2
1

Total
7.4
21.5
100
7.4
27.1
100

The long-term expected rate of return on investments does not affect the level of the deficit but does affect the level of the expected return on assets within the net finance cost charged to the profit and loss account under FRS 17.

The net pension deficit set out below under FRS 17 is as if this standard was fully applied. The fair value of the BTPS assets, the present value of the BTPS liabilities based on the financial assumptions set out above, and the resulting deficit, together with those of unfunded pension liabilities at 31 March 2003 are shown below. The fair value of the BTPS assets is not intended to be realised in the short term and may be subject to significant change before it is realised. The present value of the liabilities is derived from long-term cash flow projections and is thus inherently uncertain.

31 March 2003 31 March 2002  










 
Assets
Present value
of liabilities
Deficit
Assets
Present value
of liabilities
Deficit
 
£m
£m
£m
£m
£m
£m
 












 
spacer
spacer
spacer
spacer
spacer
spacer
 
BTPS
21,500
30,500
9,000
27,100
28,900
1,800
 
Other liabilities
33
33
30
30
 












 
Total deficit
9,033
1,830
 
Deferred tax asset at 30%
(2,710
)
(549
)












 
Net pension liability
6,323
1,281
 












 

If the above amounts had been recognised in the financial statements, the group’s net assets and profit and loss reserve at 31 March would be as follows:

31 March 2003
£m
31 March 2002
£m
 




 
Net assets (deficiency)
 
Net assets (deficiency), as reported
2,642
(358
)
SSAP 24 pension prepayment (net of deferred tax)
(441
)
(162
)
SSAP 24 pension provision (net of deferred tax)
23
20
 
Net pension liability under FRS 17
(6,323
)
(1,281
)




 
Net deficiency including net pension liability
(4,099
)
(1,781
)




 
31 March 2003
£m
31 March 2002
£m
 
 




 
Profit and loss reserve
 
Profit and loss reserve, as reported
1,208
(1,819
)
SSAP 24 pension prepayment (net of deferred tax)
(441
)
(162
)
SSAP 24 pension provision (net of deferred tax)
23
20
 
Net pension liability under FRS 17
(6,323
)
(1,281
)




 
Profit and loss reserve including net pension liability
(5,533
)
(3,242
)




 

On the basis of the above assumptions and in compliance with FRS 17 the amounts that would have been charged to the consolidated profit and loss account and the statement of total recognised gains and losses for the year ended 31 March 2003 would be as follows:

2003
£m
 


Analysis of amounts that would be charged to operating profit on an FRS 17 basis
Current service cost
444
Past service cost
60


Total operating charge
504


Amount that would be charged (credited) to net interest payable on an FRS 17 basis
Expected return on pension scheme assets
(1,983
)
Interest on pension scheme liabilities
1,694


Net finance expense (return)
(289
)


Amount that would be charged to profit before taxation on an FRS 17 basis
215


Analysis of the amount that would be recognised in the consolidated statement of total recognised gains and losses on an FRS 17 basis
Expected return less actual return on pension scheme assets
6,995
Experience (gains) losses arising on pension scheme liabilities
(1,056
)
Changes in assumptions underlying the present value of the pension scheme liabilities
1,660


Actuarial loss recognised
7,599


The net pension cost of £215 million for the year ended 31 March 2003 under FRS 17 is £107 million lower than the profit and loss charge recognised under SSAP 24.

The movements in the net pension liability, on an FRS 17 basis, during the year ended 31 March 2003 were:

£m


Deficit at 1 April 2002
1,830
Current service cost
444
Contributions
(611
)
Past service costs
60
Other finance income
(289
)
Actuarial loss recognised
7,599


Deficit at 31 March 2003
9,033


Net pension liability, post tax, at 31 March 2003
6,323


The history of experience gains (losses) which would have been recognised under FRS 17 were:

Difference between expected and actual return on scheme assets:
Amount (£m)
(6,995
)
Percentage of scheme assets
32.5
%
Experience gains and losses on scheme liabilities:
Amount (£m)
1,056
Percentage of the present value of scheme liabilities
3.5
%
Total amount recognised in statement of total recognised gains and losses:
Amount (£m)
(7,599
)
Percentage of the present value of scheme liabilities
24.9
%

<<Previous | Back to top |Next>>

BT Group plc 2003       Privacy policy