600 Group prepares for acquisitions after pension buyout

Machine tool maker 600 Group has completed the buyout of its UK pension scheme liabilities in a move that will pave the way for future acquisitions.

Executive chairman Paul Dupee (left) with chief operating officer Terry Allison (right)

The Halifax-based firm said the completion of the transaction will give the group significantly greater liquidity and financial flexibility.

The £4.1m post-tax cash surplus will be used to fund working capital, invest in product development, supplement organic growth and enable value-enhancing bolt-on acquisition opportunities.

Sign up to our Business newsletter

Sign up to our Business newsletter

In a trading update for the year to March 30 the firm said that despite macro-economic and political uncertainties, trading in the second half of the financial year has been solid and the group expects to deliver a full year outcome in line directors’ expectations.

600 said enquiry and quotation activity have remained good with further progress in the group’s order book.

Executive chairman Paul Dupee said: “The completion of the pension buyout significantly de-risks the group’s balance sheet, providing greatly improved financial flexibility as we continue our strategy for growth and build a global industrials business."

Following the completion of the buyout of its UK pension scheme liabilities, all surplus funds totalling £6.3m gross and £4.1 net of tax have now been returned to the group.

Last July, the group announced that the trustee of its UK defined benefits scheme had agreed to a buyout of the scheme’s £201m liabilities by Pension Insurance Corporation, a specialist insurer.

The buyout was undertaken to secure benefits paid to the scheme’s 2,000 pensioners and 800 deferred members whilst simultaneously relieving the company of the disproportionate liability of such a large scheme.

Analyst Eric Burns at WH Ireland said: "Although the proposed pension buyout had been flagged some time ago, the net outcome to the company is slightly better than we had anticipated and represents around 25 per cent of the company’s market cap.

"We saw the offloading of the pension scheme together with payment of a dividend as two of the main catalysts for a re-rating of the stock in our initiation note of March 7.

"Both have now been delivered yet the share price has in fact declined by more than 10 per cent. This makes no sense for a company trading on 5 times current year earnings and offering a prospective yield of approaching 6 per cent."