25 May 2013

GPG still working with UK pension regulator

3:00 pm on 25 May 2013

Guinness Peat Group is continuing to work with the UK regulator over its liability for the Coats pension plan.

The company has already earmarked £124 million to settle that liability but there's an outside chance it could be significantly more.

Chairman Rob Campbell says he can't quantify what the worst-case scenario might be, nor how long it will take to resolve, but he hopes it will be settled before next year's annual shareholders' meeting.

He says the company is in the very early stage of discussions with the pension regulator but still thinks £124 million will be sufficient.

Mr Campbell says while discussions continue with the regulator GPG is unable to pay any further money to its shareholders.

"Unfortunately the regulator marches to its own drumbeat and own timing, so we're unable to influence that. We're engaging as quickly and as constructively and openly as we can with the regulator, but we're in the regulator's hands as to the time this whole process takes."

Mr Campbell says it would be unfortunate and punitive on GPG shareholders if the pension issue took longer than a year to resolve, but the planning is proceeding that on the basis of settlement in that time.

Next agm likely in London

Mr Campbell has also told shareholders their next annual meeting is likely to be held in London.

Most of GPG's 24,000 shareholders live in New Zealand but company headquarters are in London.

Thursday's agm was only the third held in New Zealand: the lack of local meetings was a major bone of contention when board control was wrested away from founder and former chairman Sir Ron Brierley in September 2010.

Mr Campbell says he expects GPG's level of involvement with the British market is going to increase significantly, now that its major asset is the multi-national Coats threads business.