Windfall for Computacenter staff

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The Independent Online
COMPUTACENTER, the computer services giant, is planning to give most of its 3,000 employees free shares worth up to pounds 1,800 as part of its planned pounds 1bn flotation.

The company, which joins the stock market this month, will offer eligible employees between 25 and 265 free shares, depending on how long they have been with the company.

Computacenter yesterday announced that the shares will be priced at between 550p and 670p each when they start trading on 21 May, depending on demand from investors.

The flotation will make multi-millionaires of Philip Hulme and Peter Ogden, Computacenter's two founders, who will both retain a 25 per cent stake in the company, likely to be worth more than pounds 250m.

However, both men plan to give most of the cash proceeds they will receive from the flotation, around pounds 50m, to charity. Mr Hulme, Computacenter's chairman, plans to lodge the entire pounds 30m he makes from selling 5 million shares in the company in a charitable trust. Mr Ogden, who has stepped back from running the company but plans to stay on as a non-executive director, is planning to do the same with two-thirds of the pounds 28m he will receive. No decision has been made about which charities will benefit, although Mr Ogden has in the past made donations to universities.

A 15.7 per cent stake is currently held by 700 existing and former employees, in shares and options.

Mike Norris, chief executive, said the flotation would allow all Computacenter's employees share in the company's future. Only 25.9 per cent of the shares - close to the minimum allowed - is being placed with institutional investors.

Apax and Foreign & Colonial, the venture capital groups which are long- standing shareholders in Computacenter, will retain stakes of 9.8 per cent and 4.9 per cent respectively.

They also supply the two independent non-executive directors to the company's board.

Computacenter, founded in the early 1980s, has enjoyed rapid growth. The company, which specialises in offering a full range of services, has benefited from the trend for large companies to hand over responsibility for their information technology systems to outside organisations.

Investment Column, page 24