BT hands out £36m in free shares to employees

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The Independent Online

Around 94,000 workers at the telecoms giant BT will each get a windfall of £340 worth of shares this year after the company reported a 44 per cent jump in annual profits.

Around 94,000 workers at the telecoms giant BT will each get a windfall of £340 worth of shares this year after the company reported a 44 per cent jump in annual profits.

BT said yesterday it was awarding £36m worth of free shares - equivalent to about 2 per cent of last year's pre-tax profits - to its employees this year. A spokesman said the bulk of BT's 100,000-strong workforce, or 93,992 staff, would receive shares worth about £340, which are tax-free if held for five years.

Ben Verwaayen, BT's chief executive, said: "BT people have come up trumps in reaching some very demanding targets. To achieve a reduction of 37 per cent in customer dissatisfaction, while at the same time increasing our earnings per share by 61 per cent as a result of continued financial discipline, is a superb achievement for BT."

He added: "Now all BT people can see for the first time that what they do every day in meeting customer demands is reflected in their rewards."

It is the first year that BT's scheme was contingent on the company exceeding its performance targets of increasing earnings per share and reducing customer dissatisfaction by 25 per cent respectively.

Similar targets have been set for the current financial year which, if achieved, will see staff share another 2 per cent of the company's pre-tax profits.

BT announced last week that pre-tax profits in the year to 31 March had jumped 44 per cent to £1.829bn before accounting for goodwill amortisation and exceptional items.

The company is one of a handful of businesses to operate such a scheme. The supermarket giant Tesco is set to announce what its staff will get under its scheme in a week and a half.

Last year, Tesco said it had allocated about £38m worth of shares to about 104,000 staff in 1999. Tesco workers eligible for the scheme were allocated shares worth 3.6 per cent of their salaries although they could not be sold for three years. The rival supermarket chain Asda gives staff an annual cash bonus. The scheme, introduced when it was taken over by the US group Wal-Mart, has paid out about £34.4m to staff since 2000. The average bonus last year was about £232, up from £208 a year before.

A BT spokesman said yesterday the staff who would not benefit from the stock windfall were those who had joined after the financial year had ended and about 6,000 overseas workers who had different schemes.

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