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Pensions funding

The Group's pension deficit was £133.6 million as at 31 December 2007, compared to £186.6 million as at 31 December 2006. The pension deficit decrease is primarily due to increases in the discount rate in the US, UK and Europe.

Most of the Group's pension scheme assets are held by its schemes in the UK and North America. In the UK, the forecasted weighted average return on assets increased from 5.6% as at 31 December 2006 to 5.8% as at 31 December 2007, and in North America, the forecasted weighted average return decreased from 6.8% to 6.7%, broadly in line with the yields available in both markets.

Contributions to funded schemes are determined in line with local conditions and practices. Certain contributions in respect of unfunded schemes are paid as they fall due.

In 2006 the Group implemented a funding strategy under which our objective is to fully eliminate the deficit for funded schemes by 31 December 2010. Employer contributions in 2007 were £47.0 million (2006: £48.6 million) and are expected to be £39.4 million in 2008.