Timken to contribute as prelude to partial pension buyout

Timken Co., Canton, Ohio, plans to contribute about $100 million a year to its defined benefit pension plans in 2013 and 2014 as part of an overall effort to prepare the plans for a partial pension buyout, confirmed Steve D. Tschiegg, director-capital markets and investor relations.

The contributions, announced as part of its most recent 8-K filing to the SEC, will come after a total of $210 million in contributions to the plans has been in 2012.

As of Dec. 31, 2011, the fair value of plan assets was $2.632 billion with $3.125 billion in projected benefit obligations, for a funding ratio of 84.2%, according to its latest 10-K filing. The company contributed $291 million in 2011 and $230 million in 2010.

Mr. Tschiegg said the contributions, well over the minimum funding requirement, will make the plan at least fully funded while Timken looks into a group annuity contract with an insurance company at some point in the next several years.

“We want to reduce the liability and chip away to get that liability reduced,” Mr. Tschiegg said in a telephone interview.

The timing of an annuitization depends on the interest-rate environment over the next several years, Mr. Tschiegg said.

“With the interest rates being very low, it may not make sense to annuitize completely,” Mr. Tschiegg said, adding that it hasn't been determined what percentage of assets would be sold to an insurance company.

Most employees were moved to a defined contribution plan several years ago, Mr. Tschiegg said, while a small number of bargaining unit employees are still in an active DB plan.