Eversheds and Linklaters pave the way for BA and Iberia deal

Eversheds and Linklaters have advised on a crucial pension recovery agreement between British Airways (BA) and its two final salary pension funds that should clear the way for the airline’s merger with Iberia.

Linklaters partner Rosalind Knowles advised the company on the deal with Eversheds pensions chief Anthony Arter and partner Harold Lewis acting for the trustees of the New Airways Pension Scheme (NAPS) and the Airways Pension Scheme (APS).

Linklaters has a longstanding relationship with the airline as its go-to pensions adviser. Eversheds has acted for the trustees of the pension funds since 2003, when the firm won the ­mandate from Macfarlanes.

Under the terms of the agreement, BA will pay £330m a year to APS until 2023 and to NAPS until 2026 as a means of reducing the schemes’ combined deficit of £3.7bn.

The company will make additional deficit contributions if its year-end cash ­balance exceeds £1.8bn while the schemes will be given an additional £250m of security over the company’s assets, which would become payable if BA went into insolvency. The schemes currently have £230m in security over assets.

The recovery plan is subject to approval from the Pensions Regulator and Iberia.

BA and Iberia agreed to merge at the end of last year, with Norton Rose and Slaughter and May winning lead advisory roles. Slaughters corporate partner David Whittmann and Steve Cooke and tax partner Tony Breare are acting for longstanding client BA.

The Norton Rose team acting for Iberia is led by corporate partner Nick Adams, with Garrigues co-managing partner Fernando Vives leading the Spanish advice.
This is a different line-up to when the deal was first mooted in 2008. On that occasion Allen & Overy (A&O) Madrid managing partner Inigo Gomez-­Jordana and London ­corporate partner Alan Paul advised Iberia opposite Slaughters for BA.

If Iberia gives the pension recovery plan the green light, contributions to the schemes will be made by BA only – not by Iberia or the merged entity.