Northern Rock to pay pounds 1,500 in shares

Retailers in the North-east are anticipating a mini-boom after Northern Rock Building Society floats on the stock market in the autumn and distributes free shares worth almost pounds 1,500 to each of its members.

Northern Rock, based in Newcastle, is the smallest of the societies which plan to convert to banks this year but is paying out the greatest windfall to its 900,000 members, half of whom are in the North-east of England. The flotation is scheduled for 1 October.

The transfer document, published yesterday, unveiled a "flat" distribution scheme similar to the controversial one chosen by Alliance & Leicester. Regardless of the balance in their accounts, all eligible savers and borrowers with Northern Rock will receive 500 shares.

David Baker, executive director of Northern Rock, said this distribution scheme for the shares was the most suitable for members.

In a bid to avoid controversy caused by the inability of other converting societies to distribute free shares to some disabled members, Northern Rock intends to give a pounds 1m donation to charities for the disabled and their carers.

One in three households in the North-east is expected to receive the shares, which are forecast to be worth between 260p and 295p. The total value of the allocation will be worth between pounds 1,300 and pounds 1,475.

The exact value of the shares will be known on 1 October when the society expects its stock market flotation to go ahead. Members must vote on the flotation plans by post by 12 April or at a meeting at Newcastle Arena on 15 April.