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DETROIT—General Motors Co.'s U.S. pension plan obligations grew faster in 2011 than its plan assets as low interest rates inflated the value of plan liabilities.
In its annual 10-K report, GM disclosed Monday that the value of promised benefits jumped to $108.6 billion at the end of 2011, up from $103.4 billion at year-end 2010. U.S. pension plan assets increased to $94.3 billion, up from $91.0 billion a year earlier.
With liability growth outpacing asset values, plan underfunding rose to more than $14.2 billion at year-end 2011, up from $12.4 billion a year earlier.
To reduce liability growth, GM will completely freeze defined benefit plans covering salaried employees, effective Oct. 1, completing a process it began several years ago. Affected employees will receive additional company 401(k) plan contributions.
GM also disclosed that it expects a significant decrease during the next several years in the amount of pension benefits paid to plan participants. This year, GM estimates its U.S. pension plans will pay $8.5 billion in benefits. By 2016, payments will drop to $7.6 billion.
And even bigger reductions in pension plan payouts are down the road. GM, in the 10-K filing, said it expects to make $35.4 billion in payments from 2017 through 2021, down from $40.4 billion for 2012 through 2016.