WHO SHARES IN THE GREAT PAY-OUT?

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Abbey National

Ten years ago the mutual became the first building society to be floated on the stock exchange as a bank, giving 5 million members 100 free shares worth 130p each. The shares opened trading at 161 pence. Ten years later they are worth 1221p, making the gain to date on a hundred free shares more than pounds 1,200. The experience helped whet the appetite of savers and borrowers for future `demutualisations'.

Halifax

The country's largest building society floated on the stock market, after merging with its Yorkshire neighbour the Leeds Permanent two years ago, valued at pounds 18.4bn.

Some 7.6 million members received an average 330 shares worth pounds 2,555. Each share was worth 732.5p at flotation. The shrewdest shareholders sold in August 1998 when the share price hit an all-time high of 977p. Currently at 784p, shares are still worth more than at flotation.

Woolwich

This building society joined the stock market stampede in the summer of 1997, and was the biggest flotation after the Halifax. Some 2.5 million people got an average of 450 shares worth just over pounds 1,500. About a quarter sold their shares immediately. The shares are now trading at 379.5 pence

Alliance & Leicester

A long advertising campaign culminated in flotation of this mutual in April 1997. The company was valued at pounds 3.3bn. Its 2.2 million members got 250 shares each worth 542p.

Bristol & West

In August 1997 the building society was taken over by the Bank of Ireland, triggering payouts worth pounds 600m. More than a million members received pounds 500, plus a sum based on the balance of their savings. Borrowers received shares worth pounds 250. The average payout was worth about pounds 1,000.

Northern Rock

The Newcastle-based building society floated on the stock market, becoming a bank in November 1997. Nearly 900,000 investors were given 500 shares worth pounds 2,315. Shares are now worth 500p, 37p more than when the society floated. From about this time further attempts to take building societies out of their members hands became increasingly controversial. Carpet-baggers who had successfully garnered several windfalls tried to force votes in other societies. Michael Hordern, the most prominent campaigner, failed with the Nationwide. The biggest remaining building society has made a virtue of its mutuality, charging lower mortgage rates than most banks. But the Bradford & Bingley recently fell to a vote and will convert.

Birmingham Midshires

Bought by the Halifax in December 1998 in a pounds 750m deal. Investors with pounds 50,000 in their account for three years received a maximum of pounds 5,400.

Scottish Amicable

This mutual insurer was bought by Prudential in February 1997. In October 1.1 million Scottish Amicable members will get almost pounds 1,000. About pounds 550 will be in cash and the balance will be added to policies when they mature.

Norwich Union

The fifth biggest insurance company in Britain demutualised in June 1997 when it was floated for pounds 2.4bn. Almost 2 million policyholders each received an average of 300 shares worth pounds 700. A further 1.1 million received 150 shares each worth 290p. The shares are doing well at 445.5 pence. Norwich Union is regularly tipped as a target for takeover by one of its bigger rivals, and if it is taken over there will be a further windfall in the form of still higher share prices.

Scottish Widows

Lloyds TSB formally announced its pounds 7bn bid for the Edinburgh-based mutual insurer at the end of last month. If the deal goes ahead, 900,000 investors will receive an average of almost pounds 6,000. Around 1.6 million with ordinary policies will be paid a flat payment of pounds 500. Others will be given up to pounds 25,000. The process will take another two years. Success will depend on whether the new owners can improve investment results.

RAC

After the Government blocked an attempt by the US group Cedant to take over Britain's oldest motoring organisation, car hire group Lex Service made a pounds 437m offer which is still being finalised. If approved, the deal will see 12,000 members of the Royal Automobile Club net pounds 34,000 each. But the 5.7 million motorists who rely on the RAC for breakdown services will get nothing.

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