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Sainsbury's settles pension dispute; SCHEME: Supermarket group agrees deal with Merrill Lynch Investment Managers.

Byline: NICKY BURRIDGE

SUPERMARKET group Sainsbury's yesterday confirmed that it had settled a dispute with Merrill Lynch Investment Managers over the performance of its pension fund.

The group has accepted an undisclosed sum from MLIM, which manages part of its pounds 2.4bn company pension scheme.

It is understood that Sainsbury's was unhappy with the fund's performance in 1997, when it is thought it failed to outperform industry benchmarks, despite returning double digit growth.

But despite the dispute, the super-market group said it would keep a proportion of its pension fund with MLIM.

A spokesman said, ``J Sainsbury and Merrill Lynch Investment Managers, based on their long-standing business relationship, have resolved all past issues on an amicable basis.''

MLIM confirmed that it had reached an agreement with Sainsbury's without admitting liability, and had paid the group an undisclosed sum.

A spokesman said, ``The matter dates back some six years and it is time to move on. There is no basis for other claims, but if one were to arise it would be vigorously contested.''

In December MLIM reached an outof-court settlement with Unilever after the group accused it of mismanaging its pension fund.

The settlement, which was thought to be about pounds 70m, brought to an end a 28-day High Court case over Unilever's pounds 130m negligence claim.

The court battle saw two of the City's female stars, Carol Galley, one of the founding members of Mercury Asset Management, which is owned by Merrill Lynch, and Unilever's chief investment officer, Wendy Mayall, pitched against each other.

Other groups which invested pension funds with MLIM were considering their position following yesterday's news. The Co-operative Group, which has around pounds 500m of its pounds 2.1bn pension fund invested with MLIM, said it was considering its options.

In May it announced it had instructed lawyers Richards Butler to look into the situation.
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Title Annotation:Business
Comment:Sainsbury's settles pension dispute; SCHEME: Supermarket group agrees deal with Merrill Lynch Investment Managers.(Business)
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 7, 2002
Words:310
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