pounds 100 savings to generate windfall

Savers with the Woolwich and Halifax building societies will need to have a minimum balance in their accounts by the end of this year in order to make sure they do not miss out on their free shares when the two join the stock market next year, writes Diane Coyle.

Woolwich said yesterday that in order to qualify for the flat rate handout, likely to be worth pounds 750, members would need to have a balance of at least pounds 100 in qualifying accounts at midnight on 31 December. This would entitle them to vote at a special general meeting in February.

John Stewart, Woolwich group chief executive, said: "The Christmas period can be a busy one financially and I hope that this information will help members plan the use of their savings."

Savers would also need to have had pounds 100 in a qualifying account on 31 December last year. People who had at least pounds 1,000 in their account on that date and who still have that amount at the time of the special general meeting will receive a variable payment in proportion to the size of their balance.

The society said the special meeting was expected to be held in February and larger savers would be given 21 days' notice to top up their accounts back to the level they were at on 31 December 1995 in order to increase the size of their share handout.

Halifax will write to members with details of its requirements within the next two to three weeks.

In order to be eligible to vote at its February special meeting, savers will need to restore the balance in their accounts back to the December 1994 level.

That was when the news of the society's merger with Leeds Building Society and planned flotation first emerged.

Biggest and best lenders

standard variable rates, existing borrowers only

Banks:

Lloyds/C&G 6.85

Barclays 6.99

Natwest 6.99

Midland 6.99

TSB 6.99

Abbey National 7.04

Building societies

Nationwide* 6.74

Bradford & Bingley 6.74

Halifax 6.99

Woolwich 6.99

Alliance & Leicester 6.99

Northern Rock 6.99

Britannia 6.99

Birmingham Midshires* 7.24

Direct Lenders:

B&B Direct 5.99

Direct Line 6.05

Woolwich Direct 6.35

First Mortgage Securities* 6.90

Source: Money Facts

Note: Most lenders also offer discount and fixed-rate deals

* new rates from 1 Dec. FMS is based on top five competitors.

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