Lincoln Electric Co., manufacturer of welding products and a subsidiary of Lincoln Electric Holdings Inc., announced on August 19 that it would be purchasing a group annuity contract in order to reduce the company’s pension obligations for outstanding payments.
The announcement stated that Lincoln Electric is purchasing the group annuity contract from Principal Financial Group in order to settle $425 million worth of outstanding U.S. pension payments to former employees. According to Crain’s Cleveland Business and Pensions and Investments, Lincoln Electric currently owes about $900 million to 1,900 U.S. retirees and beneficiaries who retired on or before June 1, 2015.
The company has already paid $375 million toward pension payments in the past 10 years, Lincoln Electric stated in a press release, and purchasing a group annuity would ensure that the 1,900 former employees receiving pension benefits will continue to receive their payments through the company’s U.S. Retirement Annuity Program (RAP).
The contract has not been finalized yet, Business Insurance reported, but the transaction will take place on November 1 of this year. Christopher Mapes, CEO and president of Lincoln Electric, said that the company’s current (non-annuity) pension plan is “fully compliant with government funding requirements, [but] factors, such as low interest rates, a volatile investment marketplace and increased life expectancy have combined to make funding these benefits less predictable and more costly.”
The group annuity contract will reportedly reduce the company’s pension obligation by about 47%, and it requires no cash contributions, but instead will be funded by existing plan assets. Lincoln Electric has “fully funded” its pension plans over the past decade, the company stated, and the group annuity will allow the company to “reduce volatility in pension costs and funding requirements, while maintaining a fully-funded plan for the remaining retiree obligations.”