Big corporations contributed a total of $6.69 billion to their defined benefit pension plans during the first quarter of 2005, according to Pensions & Investments' review of SEC filings. That's down from about $10 billion a year earlier.
"We're very optimistic about pension funding over the past quarter," said Mark J. Ugoretz, president of the ERISA Industry Committee, Washington. "The sky has not fallen," he said, noting improved funding levels in corporate pension plans are a direct component of the economy improving.
Still, those plans reviewed had, in aggregate, a funding shortfall: Assets totaled $409.73 billion, while liabilities totaled $442.15 billion, according to data in the companies' annual reports.
International Business Machines Corp., Armonk, N.Y., was one of the largest contributors, putting $1.7 billion into its U.S. pension fund during the first quarter. The qualified portion of the company's U.S. Personal Pension Plan had assets of about $44.85 billion as of Dec. 31; benefit obligations then totaled $44.6 billion, according to the annual report.
Mark Loughridge, senior vice president and chief financial officer, had said in a January conference call the company would make the contribution "based on a strong year-end cash position."
The contribution was invested consistent with the company's asset allocation, said Kendra Collins, IBM spokeswoman. Indeed, virtually all of those interviewed said contributions are invested in accordance with the pension funds' asset allocations, and would not be more specific.