More than two years' worth of dividends are needed to plug the £4.7bn defined benefit (DB) pensions deficits for 23 FTSE 250 companies, JLT Employee Benefits research shows.
The consultancy's study - The FTSE 250 and their Pension Disclosures - found a further 12 companies would need to make payments worth up to two years' dividends, and another 56 could settle the deficit in full with one year's dividend.
The conclusions are based on analysis of FTSE 250 half-yearly reports ending on or before 30 June 2016, and then published by 31 October 2016.
The research also found 20 firms had pension liabilities greater than their equity market value - with the Go-Ahead Group topping the table, with liabilities equating to 407% of its £834m equity market value as at 30 June last year.
At the time, the firm's scheme had liabilities totalling £3.4bn and assets of £2.7bn, resulting in a £652m deficit and a funding level of 81% on the IAS 19 accounting measure.
JLT Employee Benefits director Charles Cowling said companies need to tackle these deficits in order to remain competitive, especially as Brexit may bring market volatility.
"While these metrics don't capture the entire picture, they are a useful indicator of the pension drag on the sponsoring company," he said. "High levels of debts can severely constrain a company's ability to invest in vital research and development, upgrade its operations and hire skilled staff, affecting its competitiveness and long-term prospects.
"As Brexit has increased the uncertainty around trade regulations and tariffs, being highly competitive is a key success factor.
"While 9% may not seem a lot, the situation in the FTSE 250 is much more serious than in the FTSE 100, which has only a couple of companies with such a pension burden."
According to the report, KAZ Minerals had the worst funding level for its DB scheme across all FTSE 250 schemes, at 6% and with £1m of assets and £11m of liabilities on the IAS 19 accounting measure.
In contrast, Tullett Prebon's DB scheme was in the best position, with a 144% funding level, £290m of assets, and £202m of liabilities.
Just 41 FTSE 250 firms disclosed pension surpluses in their reports, compared to 91 which revealed deficits.
Some 26 firms had liabilities totalling over £1bn, while 21 firms' amounted to between £500m and £1bn. Overall, the total disclosed liabilities sat at £81bn.
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