MONTREAL, Jan. 22, 2014 /CNW Telbec/ - Air Canada provided today an update regarding its Canadian pension plans solvency status. Based on preliminary estimates and the factors outlined below, Air Canada projects its Canadian registered pension plans at January 1, 2014 to be in a small surplus position. The Canadian registered pension plans solvency deficit at January 1, 2013 was $3.7 billion. Final valuations as of January 1, 2014 will be completed in the first half of 2014.
The elimination of the previous $3.7 billion deficit is the result of several factors: (1) a 13.8% return on investments during 2013, (2) the implementation of previously disclosed pension benefit amendments which are estimated to have decreased the solvency deficit by approximately $970 million, (3) contributions made by the corporation for the year of $225 million in respect of the solvency deficit and (4) the application of an estimated prescribed discount rate of 3.9% to calculate its future pension obligations.
The discount rate used to value the pension obligations is determined pursuant to guidance of the Canadian Institute of Actuaries. The discount rate used at January 1, 2013 was 3.0%. Air Canada used an estimated discount rate of 3.9% at January 1, 2014. Every 10 basis points change in the discount rate would result in approximately a $150 million change to the solvency liabilities. The final valuation will be based on the guidance for January 1, 2014 expected to be confirmed in February.
Four years ago, Air Canada began a program with the objective of materially de-risking its pension plans, and a new investment strategy with liability driven initiatives was introduced. The strategy contributed to achieving a return over the four-year period of 11.8%, a first quartile performance (versus Canadian large pension plans), while lowering the overall risk profile. At present, 70.0% of the pension liabilities are matched with fixed income products to mitigate a significant portion of the interest rate (discount rate) risk. It is Air Canada's objective over the mid-term, assuming appropriate market conditions, to match 100% of the pension liabilities with fixed income products.
"Air Canada's three primary pension objectives are to ensure our employees' and retirees' pensions are secure, the pension solvency deficit is eliminated and that the costs associated with maintaining the pension plans remain affordable, predictable and stable," said Calin Rovinescu, President and Chief Executive Officer. "We have, over the past four years, made significant progress on all these objectives".
The Government of Canada recently published the Air Canada Pension Plan Funding Regulations, 2014 (the "2014 Regulations"). These regulations are in respect of certain fixed payments under Air Canada's domestic defined benefit registered pension plans for the period between 2014 and 2020 inclusive, and are scheduled to expire December 31, 2020. As part of the 2014 Regulations, Air Canada will be required to make payments of at least $150 million annually with an average of $200 million per year, to contribute an aggregate minimum of $1.4 billion over seven years in solvency deficit payments, in addition to its current service payments. Air Canada may elect to opt out of the 2014 Regulations under certain circumstances.
Air Canada would consider opting out of the new pension regulations when the annual solvency deficit payments under normal funding rules, which are determined using deficit levels over three years, would be less than $200 million and when there would be a strong basis for confidence that its derisking strategy would make a future significant deficit unlikely to re-occur. This would result in up to $200 million per year becoming available to Air Canada for other shareholder value enhancing initiatives. Air Canada does not expect to opt out of the new pension regulations in 2014.
Air Canada is Canada's largest domestic and international airline serving more than 175 destinations on five continents. Canada's flag carrier is among the 20 largest airlines in the world and in 2013 served more than 35 million customers. Air Canada provides scheduled passenger service directly to 60 Canadian cities, 49 destinations in the United States and 67 cities in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Australia, the Caribbean, Mexico and South America. Air Canada is a founding member of Star Alliance, the world's most comprehensive air transportation network serving 1,328 destinations in 195 countries. Air Canada is the only international network carrier in North America to receive a Four-Star ranking according to independent U.K. research firm Skytrax that ranked Air Canada in a worldwide survey of more than 18 million airline passengers as Best Airline in North America in 2013 for the fourth consecutive year. For more information, please visit: www.aircanada.com.
CAUTION REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING INFORMATION
Air Canada's public communications may include forward-looking statements within the meaning of applicable securities laws. Forward-looking statements, by their nature, are based on assumptions and are subject to important risks and uncertainties. Forward-looking statements cannot be relied upon due to, amongst other things, changing external events and general uncertainties of the business. Actual results may differ materially from results indicated in forward-looking statements due to a number of factors, including without limitation, industry, market, credit and economic conditions, the ability to reduce operating costs and secure financing, pension issues, energy prices, employee and labour relations, currency exchange and interest rates, competition, war, terrorist acts, epidemic diseases, environmental factors (including weather systems and other natural phenomena and factors arising from man-made sources), insurance issues and costs, changes in demand due to the seasonal nature of the business, supply issues, changes in laws, regulatory developments or proceedings, pending and future litigation and actions by third parties as well as the factors identified throughout Air Canada's public disclosure file available at www.sedar.com.
Pension funding obligations are generally dependent on a number of factors, including the assumptions used in the most recently filed actuarial valuation reports for current service (including the applicable discount rate used or assumed in the actuarial valuation), the plan demographics at the valuation date, the existing plan provisions, existing pension legislation and changes in economic conditions (mainly the return on fund assets and changes in interest rates). Actual contributions that are determined on the basis of future valuation reports filed annually may vary significantly from projections. In addition to changes in plan demographics and experience, actuarial assumptions and methods may be changed from one valuation to the next, including due to changes in plan experience, financial markets, future expectations, and changes in legislation and other factors. Until the expiry of the Air Canada Pension Plan Funding Regulations, 2014 (scheduled for December 31, 2020) or until such time as Air Canada opts out of these regulations, Air Canada's past service pension funding obligations are limited by such regulations.
Any forward-looking statements contained in this news release represent Air Canada's expectations as of date of this news release and are subject to change after such date. However, Air Canada disclaims any intention or obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as required under applicable securities regulations.
SOURCE Air Canada