Smurfit-Stone Container Corp., Chicago, expects to contribute at least $120 million to its U.S. and Canadian pension plans this year, similar to its contribution in 2002, according to the companys 10-K filing with the SEC. The 2003 contribution will depend on "future conditions in the investment markets, said Cary Johannes, manager-communications.
The long-term rate-of-return assumption for the U.S. and Canadian plans was reduced to 9% in 2002, from 9.5%, Ms. Johannes said. The discount rate assumption for the U.S. plans was reduced to 6.75% from 7.25%, and for non-U.S. pension plans, to 6.5% from 7%, according to the SEC filing. The reduction raised the companys pension obligations by $115 million; its unfunded pension obligation was $1 billion as of Dec. 31, up from $634 million in 2001, according to the filing. The company had a total of $1.6 billion in pension assets as of Dec. 31, the filing said.
The company expects its pension expenses to increase by $39 million this year, Ms. Johannes added.