Companies plug holes

DOZENS of companies are preparing to pump hundreds of millions of dollars into their defined benefit superannuation programs over the next few years to help claw back losses.

DOZENS of companies are preparing to pump hundreds of millions of dollars into their defined benefit superannuation programs over the next few years to help claw back losses.

Australian companies mostly closed defined benefit schemes during the 1990s, but those that have expanded overseas through acquisition have often inherited costly programs. Among top 20 companies, only Wesfarmers has a defined benefit scheme that is in surplus.

BHP pumped $US336 million into its scheme last year, helping to narrow the deficit to $US177 million from $US215 million a year earlier.

Australian banks all have sizeable defined benefit schemes, though the bulk of obligations are due to forays into Britain. Westpac has the biggest deficit at $676 million.

Telstra has been working to reduce the loss on its $2.7 billion defined pension scheme, which peaked at $457 million two years ago. Last year the loss on the Telstra fund had narrowed to $194 million.

AMP's acquisition of AXA Asia Pacific led to a jump in superannuation liabilities.