Mercer Human Resource Consulting projected that the deficits faced by pension schemes of FTSE 350 index companies will have remained fairly steady for 2004, dropping to £71 billion ($131.9 billion) from £73 billion at the end of 2003, according to a report by the firm. The report also forecast that pension assets for those companies will have increased by about £33 billion during 2004, just keeping pace with the increase in pension liabilities. Pension funds of FTSE 350 companies account for just over half all UK pension schemes liabilities, the report said; Mercer estimated the deficit for all U.K. pension schemes at £128 billion, calculated based on U.K. accounting standards.
"Many employers are now bracing themselves to contribute more money in order to make a dent in scheme deficits," Tim Keogh, worldwide partner at Mercer Human Resource Consulting, said in a statement. "Both investors and pension scheme members need to focus less on actual scheme deficits and more on the ability of companies to fund them."