THOUSANDS of pensioners from the former Scottish & Newcastle Breweries believe their campaign against current owner Heineken has been boosted by a City Takeover Panel move to improve protection for pension funds during takeover bids.
The panel has launched a consultation on proposed rules that would require bidders to disclose any effects that a takeover could have on their target’s pension schemes.
S&N Pensions Group (SNPG) has claimed that Dutch brewer Heineken reneged on a commitment at the takeover of S&N’s UK brewing business in 2008 to continue the long-held practice of previous management of paying discretionary pension increases annually.
SNPG, which has appealed to the UK Pensions Ombudsman, admitted yesterday that the panel’s proposed change would not in itself “redress the injustice” as it would not act retrospectively.
But Tom Ward, former corporate development director of S&N and a spokesman for thousands of pensioners involved in the campaign against Heineken, said: “The S&N Pensions Group welcomes this proposed change in the takeover code, which follows previous discussions that the group has had with the Takeover Panel.
“The code already gives shareholders a high degree of protection during takeover bids and this proposal would extend some important protections also to pensioners.
“It is a significant change and, although it does not force Heineken to put a penny more on the table for the S&N pensioners, our main weapon is public shame.”
Heineken, which teamed up with Carlsberg to break up S&N, argues it has abided by an agreed “discretionary” inflation-linked pay increase for the pensioners, but reserve the right to review increases annually in the light of prospects for its pension fund.
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