pounds 1m pay bonanza sparks new row at Grid

A fresh pay storm erupted at the National Grid yesterday after it emerged that one of its directors is in line for a pounds 1m pay and perks bonanza under a new share option scheme unveiled yesterday.

Mike Grabiner, chief executive of the Grid's telecommunications subsidiary Energis, will be entitled to share awards worth four times his pounds 200,000- year salary provided certain performance targets are met.

Five other Energis directors, including finance director Chris Hibbert, are in line for share awards worth three times their earnings. The Grid defended the share option scheme, saying that Energis was operating in a competitive market and that significant incentives needed to be put in place this year to stimulate performance.

Mr Grabiner and Mr Hibbert were recruited at the beginning of the year from BT to help bolster the fledgling telecoms operator. Losses at Energis rose from pounds 53m to pounds 73m last year and it is not forecast to break even until 1999-2000 when sales are expected to have grown to pounds 400m.

The Grid is also in talks, however, to sell off a stake of up to 49 per cent in Energis with AT&T, the giant American telecoms group, among the likely bidders. The Grid, bitterly criticised last year for the huge share windfalls directors netted from its flotation, has also introduced a new share scheme for its main board executive directors.

Chief executive David Jones and four other directors will be eligible for free shares equivalent to their annual performance bonus this year provided the bonus is invested in shares for three years.

Mr Jones stands to pick up a maximum bonus this year of pounds 70,000 which would be matched by free shares. In 1995-96 he received total pay of pounds 248,000 including a performance-linked bonus of pounds 53,000.

The highest-paid director was the Grid's chairman, David Jefferies, who received pounds 253,000 including a pounds 73,000 bonus.

Eric Chefneux, who retired early from the post of engineering services director, received pounds 204,000 in pension contributions in addition to pounds 147,00 pay for the nine months to 31 December 1995.