Bank of America also had the second-highest increase in funded status, with a 25.2 percentage-point increase from 2012. Bank of America froze its defined benefit plans effective June 30, 2012, and the company's 10-K filing cited remeas--ure--ment of plan assets and liabilities after the freeze as a contributing factor to the funded status increase.
“Sponsors will continue to shed liabilities — adding a lump sum, cashing out, fully or partially terminating the plan,” said Mr. Wozniak of BNY Mellon.
When categorized by sector, financials had the highest average funding ratio — 107.1% — in 2013, with 14 companies in the sector. Next was health care, with an average funding ratio of 97.6% for eight plans.
The highest funding ratio in the health-care sector belonged to Merck & Co. Inc., Whitehouse Station, N.J. With $17.4 billion in assets and $16.06 billion in liabilities, Merck had a 21.6 percentage-point increase in funded status, rising to 108.6% in 2013 from 87% in 2012.
Two airlines found themselves at the other end of the funding spectrum. Delta Air Lines Inc., Atlanta, had the dubious honor of sponsoring the worst-funded plan of the top 100 for the ninth consecutive year. Delta had a funded ratio of 46.9%, with plan assets of $8.9 billion and liabilities of $19.1 billion. Delta contributed $914 million to its plans in 2013. In 2012, Delta had a funded ratio of 38.1%.
American Airlines Inc., Fort Worth, Texas, was third lowest on the list, with $10.06 billion in assets and $14.9 billion in liabilities for a funding ratio of 67.5% in 2013. American Airlines increased contributions to $494 million in 2013, which contributed to a $996 million reduction in plan liabilities.
Decreased contributions were a noticeable trend among the top 100 companies in 2013, with contributions at the lowest level since the peak of the financial crisis in 2008. “We expect to see lower contributions,” said Bob Collie, chief research strategist, Americas institutional, at Russell Investments, Seattle. “It's interesting to look at the impact of funded status on contributions.”
Although some companies made voluntary contributions above requirements, many followed a policy of contributing the minimum amount to gain tax advantages and comply with regulatory requirements. “In aggregate, this sample of very large plans is pulling back on contributions,” said Mr. Glickstein.
The plans in P&I's universe made contributions of $31.7 billion in 2013, down from $47.4 billion in 2012. Five companies contributed $1 billion or more in 2013.
Ford Motor Co., Dearborn, Mich., was the top contributor, putting $3.54 billion into its plans in 2013. With $41.22 billion in assets and $43.18 billion in liabilities, Ford's 2013 funded status was 95.4%. Ford reduced its liabilities by offering some participants a one-time choice to receive a lump-sum benefit settlement. According to its 10-K, Ford settled obligations of $3 billion in 2013 through the lump-sum offers, an option more plans might pursue as funding ratios rise.
“The funding level has improved,” said Mark Ruloff, director of asset allocation at Towers Watson in Arlington, Va. “They are definitely more inclined to derisk, whether through an investment strategy move or a buyout.”
Lockheed Martin Corp., Bethesda, Md., contributed $2.25 billion in 2013 to place second on the contribution list. The company had $33.01 billion in assets and $42.16 billion in liabilities in 2013 for a 78.3% funding ratio, 11.1 percentage points higher than in 2012.
Boeing Co., Chicago, contributed $1.54 billion in 2013, reaching a funded status of 84.7%. Boeing had $58.13 billion in assets and $68.63 billion in liabilities. Boeing contributed more than $1.5 billion in 2013 but expects required contributions to be minimal in 2014. According its 10-K filing, the company plans discretionary contributions of about $750 million.
Raytheon Co., Waltham, Mass., contributed $1.08 billion, with a funded status of 84.9%, $18.82 billion in assets and $22.16 billion in liabilities in 2013. With a funding ratio of 80.3%, a 19.6 percentage point increase from 60.7% in the previous year, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Akron, Ohio, made $1.02 billion in contributions in 2013.
The top 100 companies have announced contribution plans of $21.09 billion so far for 2014. According to annual filings, Ford, Exxon Mobil Corp., Goodyear Tire & Rubber, Verizon Communications Inc. and Lockheed Martin Corp. expect to make contributions of more than $1 billion each.
The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, which reduced required minimum con-tributions, will continue to have an impact in 2014. “It's still relevant,” said Mr. Wozniak. “Sponsors still have an option to defer some of the funding to future years. It gives them more flexibility.”