UK - Almost three quarters of company pension fund trustees would be concerned if their sponsor was taken over by a private equity firm, according to Aon consulting.
Paul Maloney, senior organiser, GMB union, told Global Pensions: "We have been inundated with pension fund trustees asking what they should do if their company was to be taken over by a private equity group.
"We have had to set up training courses to help and advise pension fund trustees on the issue, the demand has been so great."
Aon's research showed the higher the value of the pension fund, the more anxious trustees became, with 80% of trustees for funds over £100m (US$197m) expressing concern about takeovers.
Paul McGlone, principal and senior actuary, Aon, commented: "The survey shows that the private equity industry still has challenges to face to win the backing of trustees, who are not just concerned by its asset stripping reputation or fears over scheme funding, but also by the attitude to scheme members.
"Some trustees' fears are very specific and well founded, such as the concern that gearing could move the scheme down the order of creditors."
Conversely, almost a quarter of pension fund trustees said they were already invested or were at least interested in private equity as an asset class. This figure grew to 31% of trustees administering a fund worth over £100m.
McGlone concluded trustees should realise their importance to private equity deals, citing recent takeover attempts such as the failed Sainsbury's bid which collapsed largely due to trustee pressure.
He concluded: "However trustees must also recognise the potential benefits to the business that a new owner can bring and must carefully assess the impact of any private equity acquisition on their sponsor and scheme on a case by case basis and decide how they might protect members' interests in the event of takeover."
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