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Debenhams in talks with Aviva to offload executive pensions

Struggling retailer Debenhams is in talks with Aviva about the insurer buying out its executive pension scheme, which holds more than £200m assets.

Debenhams is closing in on the deal as it shutters dozens of its department stores around the country, Sky News reported.

It would guarantee that members of the executive pension scheme enjoy its benefits in future.

The deal is likely to prove controversial, however, as the main Debenhams scheme which covers the majority of its workforce is not included.

Debenhams teetered on the brink of collapse in 2019, a tough year for the British high street. The company was taken over by a group of its lenders in a move that wiped out existing shareholders.

In May the retailer secured the backing of its creditors to push ahead with a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) restructuring plan, which earmarked 50 stores for closure and approved rent reductions at more than 100.

The department store chain has said it will shut 19 stores between 11 and 25 January, with an additional 28 stores will close over the next three years.

Sources told Sky News that trustees of the main Debenhams retirement scheme, which is understood to have a financial deficit, were looking to nail down a deal with a consolidation vehicle.

Debenhams is now privately owned, but its most recent annual report from 2018 showed that the executive pension scheme was fully funded in 2017.

Debenhams and Aviva both declined to comment.


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