* New breeds of pension not covered well by accounting rules
* IASB researching new accounting methods for hybrid pensions
* Asks if cos with big pension deficits shld pay large dividends (Adds quotes from speech, conference on company dividends)
By Carolyn Cohn
EDINBURGH, March 12 (Reuters) - An international accounting standards body said on Thursday it was looking at developing new accounting methods for “hybrid” pensions which did not fit easily into standard categories.
Companies around the world are moving away from expensive “defined benefit” or final-salary based pension schemes, which guarantee an income on retirement, in favour of “defined contribution” schemes.
But many firms are also introducing hybrid pension schemes which do not fit neatly into either category, International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) Chair Hans Hoogervorst said in the text of a speech to a pensions conference.
“Modern pension schemes can have infinite variations, from the extremes of defined contribution through to defined benefit, with differing degrees and forms of risk-sharing,” Hoogervorst said.
Hoogervorst said the “somewhat binary approach” of existing accounting rules, “struggles to deal with this new, infinitely variable pension landscape”.
IASB is researching a pension accounting method that works for all types of schemes, he said.
Fewer than a quarter of companies in Britain’s FTSE 100 index now offer defined benefit schemes to a significant number of employees.
The vast majority of the schemes are in deficit, which can act as a drag on company share prices.
“Should companies really be paying dividends when big pension deficits continue to eat away at their balance sheet?” Hoogervorst said in the speech.
Pension deficits are not classed as liabilities in the profit or loss section of financial reports.
“It is a bit misleading to investors ... when a company shows hunkydory profit or loss figures when these problems are festering in the background,” Hoogervorst told the conference in a Q&A session. (Editing by Vincent Baby, Greg Mahlich)