Uniq pension scheme talks continuing

Uniq said yesterday that talks were continuing over a restructuring of its pension scheme and a new banking facility as the convenience food maker announced that Christmas trading was close to expectations despite bad weather.

Uniq, which was under the threat of being wound up due to its huge pension fund deficit, said detailed discussions were ongoing with the pension regulator and the trustee of its main pension scheme over a deficit for equity swap which the company had proposed last year.

Under the proposal, the pension trustee will release Uniq from its obligations under the pension scheme in exchange for taking a 90 per cent shareholding in Uniq and receiving 15m in cash.

Uniq had a pension deficit of 436m at the end of March 2009, dwarfing its equity value of 8.7m based on Tuesday's closing price.

Uniq also said yesterday that discussions were proceeding well with Lloyds Banking Group over a new 25m banking facility.

The company, which sells desserts, sandwiches and salads to retailers such as Marks & Spencer, warned rising commodity prices would add to the pressure of an extremely tough market place in 2011.

Uniq said sales grew 3.1 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2010, driven by strong growth in sandwich sales.

Sales of desserts were down 1.7 per cent, impacted by price increases, lower sales of Cadbury products due to fewer promotions and a fall in cottage cheese sales volumes.

The company said it had decided to stop producing cottage cheese in 2011.