LONDON — Leading corporations on the Continent are boosting their contributions to pension plans this year in an attempt to plug growing deficits.
The total unfunded pension liability of Europe's 50 largest publicly owned corporations was about €116 billion ($139 billion) on Jan. 1, according to new research by U.K. consultants Lane Clarke & Peacock, London.
Among companies with the largest funding shortfalls:
• Anglo-Dutch foods and detergents group Unilever NV, Rotterdam, this year will inject €500 million into its €13 billion global funded pension plans. This is almost triple the €170 million the group gave to its pension plans last year. The group's pension liabilities represent 33% of its market capitalization, according to Lane Clarke & Peacock.
• Dutch electronics firm Philips NV, Eindhoven, will contribute €465 million to its €17.7 million global pension plans this year, compared with €175 million in 2003, according to the group's annual report for 2003. The Lane Clarke & Peacock data show its global pension liabilities at 64% of the firm's market capitalization.
• DaimlerChrysler AG, Stuttgart, is making a voluntary contribution of €1.4 billion to its global pension plans, which have total assets of €26.3 billion. The firm's worldwide pension liabilities represent 106% of its market capitalization, according to Lane Clarke & Peacock.
DaimlerChrysler's 2004 contribution is lower than its 2003 contribution because equity markets showed signs of recovery toward the end of last year, said company spokesman Thomas Froelich. Equities account for 64% of assets in its non-German pension plans, and 58% of its German plans.