U.S. corporate pension plan buyout sales totaled about $4.7 billion during the first quarter, a LIMRA Secure Retirement Institute sales survey found.
The first-quarter total is the highest for any first quarter in more than 30 years, a news release containing the survey results said. In the first quarter of 2018, pension buyout sales were $1.4 billion.
Sales in the fourth quarter of 2018 totaled $10.5 billion. Traditionally, the majority of buyout sales take place in the third and fourth quarters of calendar years.
The spike in sales for the first quarter was driven by strong small and midsized deals and one large deal, said Mark Paracer, assistant research director, LIMRA Secure Retirement Institute, in the news release.
Sales were strong across the board among the 17 financial services companies surveyed. The companies provide all the group annuity contracts for U.S. corporate pension plans.
"The increase in sales was not limited to just one company. Two-thirds of companies reported higher first-quarter sales compared to the previous year," Mr. Paracer said.
Total assets of buyout products totaled $139 billion in the first quarter, up 15% from the first quarter of 2018. Survey participants reported as of March 31, a historic total of 29,417 contracts have been sold.
First-quarter highlights included Avery Dennison Corp., Glendale, Calif., purchasing a group annuity contract from American General Life Insurance Co. to transfer $750 million in U.S. pension plan liabilities to complete its termination of that plan, and S&P Global Inc., New York, purchasing a group annuity from Pacific Life Insurance Co. to transfer about $370 million in U.S. pension plan liabilities.