Tesco employees share £111m save-as-you-earn windfall

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About 50,000 Tesco staff shared in a £111m windfall yesterday after two savings schemes in the supermarket giant matured.

Staff, from shop assistants to senior managers, who invested in the supermarket's three-year scheme will have practically doubled the value of their savings because shares in the group have risen by 98 per cent over the past three years.

Those who opted for a separate five-year scheme will have benefited from the 59 per cent rise in the value of Tesco's shares since the scheme was launched. This year's payout was more than the £106m staff spilt in 2005.

Tesco's shares have not done so well of late for the company's owners, however. In the past 12 months the supermarket group has underperformed its peers on the stock market despite leaving them standing in terms of sales and profits. The prospect of Tesco taking on the world's biggest company, Wal-Mart, on its home turf has unnerved many investors after details of the UK group's plans to roll out a chain of convenience stores on the west coast of America.

This year marked the 25th anniversary of the launch of Tesco's save-as-you-earn scheme. During that time its popularity among employees has increased 100fold, with a just under70,000 staff signing up to the scheme last year against 942 when it was launched. Tesco employs more than 250,000 people in the UK, where it has about 1,800 stores.

Top savers stand to net more than £5,300, the group said, although two-thirds of staff opted to hang on to their shares rather than cash them in.

Under the scheme, Tesco staff can set aside a fixed sum of between £5 and £50 from their salary a month for a three or five-year period. When the scheme matures Tesco's employees have the option to buy shares in the group at a price set when they joined, which can result in a discount of about 20 per cent.

Sir Terry Leahy, the chief executive, said: "I am delighted that so many staff choose to do this and so share in the success that they help to achieve through all their hard work."