Valvoline contributes USD400 million to U.S. pension fund

Valvoline Inc., a U.S.-based worldwide producer and distributor of premium branded automotive, commercial and industrial lubricants and automotive chemicals, said it will make a voluntary USD400 million contribution to its U.S. qualified pension, funded by a senior note offering which closed on August 8, 2017.

After completing the spin off of its lubricants business, Valvoline’s parent Ashland Global Holdings Inc. transferred Valvoline’s current pension and post-retirement liabilities owed to U.S. employees to Valvoline, while Ashland retained the foreign liabilities.

“Valvoline is taking action to reduce risk and long-term volatility of its underfunded pension obligations,” the company said in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing.

“A contribution at this time is a strategic opportunity based on the current interest rate environment, scheduled Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) premium rate increases, and potential future changes to the U.S. tax code,” the company said.

To raise the money to fund its pension, Valvoline launched an offering of USD400 million aggregate principal amount of 4.375% senior notes due 2025. The notes were unsecured unsubordinated obligations of Valvoline.

Valvoline joins a growing list of U.S. companies that have made large voluntary contributions to their pension plan in 2017. Rising PBGC fees have spurred many companies to increase their funding level to reduce their liabilities, which, in turn, lowers their PBGC variable-rate premiums.

They are also motivated by potential tax code changes that could lower the amount companies can deduct from their pension contributions. Tax laws currently allow pension sponsors to take a deduction on their pension contributions that are based on their tax rate. Therefore, if the tax code is changed so that it lowers corporate taxes, which is what many are expecting, then it would also lower the amount that can be deducted.

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