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Pensions Board launches bond for retirement housing

04 September 2015


THE Church of England Pensions Board has launched a public company to act as an investment vehicle to fund housing for retired clergy. It has already raised £70 million through the issue of fixed-interest bonds.

Charm Finance PLC — named after the Church Housing Assistance for Retired Ministers (CHARM) scheme — was incorporated on 17 July. Last week, it published a regulatory notice through the London Stock Exchange, advising that it was issuing 100 million £1 bonds; and was offering 70 million of them for sale. It will retain the remaining 30 million bonds, but may sell them at a later date.

The regulatory notice also confirmed that the company had applied to the Financial Conduct Authority for the bonds to be included on the official list of UK bonds; and to the London Stock Exchange for the bonds to be admitted for trading.

The bonds carry a guaranteed interest rate of 3.126 per cent, at a cost to the company of almost £2.2 million per year; they are due to be repaid in tranches between 2038 and 2048. In a prospectus, the Pension Board’s 448 freehold and 34 leasehold properties have a combined value of almost £114 million.

A statement from the Pensions Board announcing news of the bond issue says that the money raised from the bonds will be used to acquire the economic interest in 196 properties, which had been funded by the Church Commissioners as part of a long-term strategy to give clergy a wider choice as they approach retirement.

“The Board is committed to ensuring that it can continue to provide those retiring clergy who need it with affordable housing,” the chairman of the Church of England Pensions Board, Dr Jonathan Spencer, said.

“We decided the time was right to look at long-term capital finance to help secure the future of the retirement housing [CHARM] scheme. This is the next step on our journey to build a portfolio of properties that will continue to meet future expected clergy demand.”

The chairman of the Board’s housing committee, Alan Fletcher, said that the bonds would “bring greater certainty over borrowing costs by taking advantage of the current low interest rate environment”.

The first 70 million bonds have been purchased by Pension Insurance Corporation, a company that “provides tailored pension insurance buyouts and buy-ins to the trustees and sponsors of UK defined benefit pension funds”. The company has assets of £14 billion.

The C of E Pensions Board administers pension schemes for 35,000 people, spread across 250 different “employers”, including dioceses; it has assets valued at more than £1.8 billion.

Its CHARM scheme assists eligible clergy retiring from active ministry who are unable to make their own provision for retirement housing. It currently provides housing for 2500 retired clergy and their dependants.

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