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Boeing to Make $500 Million in Pension Contributions This Year

February 2, 2009
Boeing Co. expects to make $500 million in pension contributions this year, according to the company’s fourth-quarter financial report released Wednesday, January 28.

Its defined-benefit plan had $42.47 billion in assets as of September 30, according to Pensions & Investments data. The company didn’t release the year-end number.

The pension plan’s actual return on its investments last year was -15 percent. It was 83 percent funded as of December 31 on a projected benefit obligation basis, down from 110 percent as of September 30, 2007. (Information for calendar year 2007 wasn’t available because Boeing changed the measurement date for its pension plan in 2008 to year-end from September 30.)

The pension fund returned 13 percent for the 12 months ended September 30, 2007. The decline in the level of pension plan funding reduced the company’s shareholder equity by $8.2 billion, contributing largely to its fall to -$1.26 billion as of December 31 from $9 billion the previous year.

Chicago-based Boeing reduced its assumed long-term rate of return of its pension fund to 8 percent from 8.5 percent and decreased its rate for discounting pension liabilities to 6.1 percent from 6.2 percent.

The company expects noncash pension expense to be about $1 billion in 2009, “reflecting negative [pension] asset returns in 2008,” the report said. Its 2008 pension expense was $566 million.

Boeing made $531 million in pension contributions in 2008.

Boeing’s intention to reduce its workforce by 10,000 by the end of this year is not expected to affect its pension fund staffing or strategic pension fund asset allocation, said spokesman Todd H. Blecher. Boeing had 162,000 employees at the end of 2008.

Filed by Barry B. Burr of Pensions & Investments, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail editors@workforce.com.

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