Halifax handout promises fistful of dollars

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The Independent Online
The better than expected performance of Alliance & Leicester shares in its first week on the stock market has raised expectations for the value of other imminent windfalls. The Halifax handout is due next on 2 June, followed by Norwich Union later in June and Woolwich on 7 July.

The price of A&L shares was 554p when the stock market closed on Friday, giving the 250 shares a-head windfall a current value of pounds 1,385 .

The 600,000 shareholders who opted for the A&L to sell their shares for free will be paid 533.7p a share, or pounds 1,334, which will be credited to A&L accounts tomorrow, where people still have accounts, or sent out in cheque form otherwise.

Following this performance, City analysts are now predicting prices of between 500p and 550p for Halifax shares.

This translates into pounds 1,000 to pounds 1,100 for someone receiving the basic windfall of 200 shares, though more than 4 million of the 7.6 million Halifax customers due to receive the shares will receive more. Those savers due more - people with pounds 1,000 or more in their accounts on certain qualifying dates - will receive one extra share for every pounds 50 of balance over this amount.

The Halifax is currently sending out details of individual share allocations along with a series of choices for its new shareholders. You should return the relevant form indicating your choice no later than 26 May.

If you want to keep the shares you are given the choice of holding them in the Halifax Shareholder Account or of getting a share certificate. If you want to put your shares into a PEP other than that offered by the Halifax you should opt for a share certificate.

The Halifax Share PEP is a single-company PEP that can only hold Halifax shares and carries charges such that even the Halifax says it is unlikely to benefit non-taxpayers or basic-rate taxpayers only entitled to the basic handout of 200 shares. It has an annual charge of 0.5 per cent plus VAT, which will offset the tax benefits of holding the shares in the PEP.

If you are due more than one windfall this year and want to put the shares in a PEP, you are almost certainly better off getting hold of your share certificate and shopping around for another PEP. Fidelity is one that looks attractive: no charges at all for holding any number of windfall shares until April 1999 and no charges beyond then if you make a further investment of any size with Fidelity by that time.

If you want to keep the shares but are not fussed about a PEP, keeping them in the Halifax Shareholder Account is the hassle-free option.

The Halifax is also offering to sell your shares for free when they start trading on the stock market. A&L shareholders who did this will have lost out a little compared with selling the shares for themselves last week, but the Halifax will set a floor price for this auction to offer some protection. People whose shares are sold in this way will get the cash a few days after the sale, either paid directly into their accounts or in cheque form.

People who want to sell for free when the shares start trading but choose their own timing can do so by taking the Shareholder Account option and selling within the first 10 days through the Halifax - they will be charged nothing. Otherwise, if you want complete freedom over whom you sell through and when, you should opt for a share certificate.

If you disagree with the number of shares the Halifax allocates you, or do not receive details of this allocation in the next week or so, call 0800 805060.

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