Marconi grants new options to key staff

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Marconi, the troubled telecoms equipment maker, has handed out £3.15m worth of share options to four key executives while another 596 staff received an average option package worth £45,800.

The options awarded to the 600 staff yesterday were granted under the company's 1999 stock option plan at a price of 35p each ­ a fraction above Marconi's closing share price on Wednesday night of 34.66p. However, a 6 per cent fall in the company's shares to 32.6p yesterday put the new options immediately under water.

The move, designed to "retain and motivate" key staff, comes just months after Marconi was forced to abandon plans to rebase its existing option scheme priced at 1,603p.

A company spokesman said there were two main performance criteria attached to the options, including meeting the stated debt target of £2.7bn to £3.2bn by the end of next March, as well as targets based on "total shareholder returns".

Options were granted over a total of 87 million shares, although 9 million of those are split between just four directors.

Mike Parton, Marconi's chief executive, was the main beneficiary, receiving 3 million options. Mike Donovan, the chief operating officer, was awarded 2.5 million; Steve Hare, the finance director, received 2 million while Rob Meakin, the personnel director, got 1.5 million options.

The options begin to vest next March, at a rate of 25 per cent a year, with the first tranche exercisable next November. The minimum award was 25,000, or £8,750 worth. Derek Bonham, Marconi's chairman, said: "We have felt for some time it is essential we motivate our key staff ... and to ensure that their interests are aligned closely with those of our shareholders."