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BHS pension deal 'could be struck by Christmas'

Closed BHS store Image copyright Getty Images

Sir Philip Green and pension regulators could reach a deal over the BHS scheme within weeks, the BBC understands.

Sources close to the talks told the BBC's Newsnight programme that an agreement could be struck by Christmas.

However, they also said Sir Philip could still walk away and instead embrace a lengthy legal battle.

The billionaire has offered more than £300m as part of a deal to restructure the collapsed retailer's indebted pension scheme, Newsnight reported.

However, the Pensions Regulator has so far rejected the offer.

It emerged on Thursday that the regulator wants about £350m in redress from Sir Philip, but one offer was for about £250m.

The regulator launched enforcement action against Sir Philip and other former owners of BHS on Wednesday after failing to agree a deal over the pension scheme, which was left with a near-£600m deficit when the retailer collapsed earlier this year.

It has sent warning notices to Sir Philip, his retail group, and Dominic Chappell - who was the owner when the department store chain collapsed.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Sir Philip has not said publicly how much he is willing to pay towards the deficit

Newsnight reporter Adam Parsons said the offer from Sir Philip would see the "majority of BHS pensioners, those with relatively small investments, being paid off".

Those who remained in the scheme would get smaller annual rises, but would start off with their full promised pension, he said.

During months of talks Sir Philip has declined to publicly put a number on the level of financial support he would be willing to give the pension scheme.

The Pensions Regulator opened an investigation into the BHS pension situation in March 2015.

Sir Philip and the other recipients of the notices will have an opportunity to reply to the warning notices.

It could then be sent to an independent determinations panel, which can impose a financial order that the regulator and former owners must then agree.

MPs last month backed a call to strip Sir Philip of his knighthood for his role in the collapse of BHS, although that decision would have to be taken by the Honours Forfeiture Committee.

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