Almost 23,000 BT staff were set to cash in on shares worth £1.1 bn last night after a five-year share ownership scheme paid out an average of nearly £42,000 each.
The telecoms giant said the scheme, which began in 2009, was “one of the UK’s largest broad-based employee share plan maturities ever”.
Staff who joined the plan saved between £5 and £225 every month until this month, meaning that they can now buy BT shares at 61p – a 14p discount to their level five years ago when the firm faced tough times.
When the FTSE 100 closed last night BT shares were worth 388.5p, an enormous payout that will in the main go to engineers and call centre workers.
Around 7,000 workers saved the maximum £225 a month, which means they are in line for a payout of £89,705 based on last night’s prices. BT adds that the scheme includes a number of BT couples who saved the maximum and are now looking at a £179,410 windfall. The average worker saved £124 a month.
The BT workers in the scheme, who make up about one third of the telecom giant’s UK staff, invested £177 million and are now in line for a payout worth £1.1 billion between them.
BT chief executive Gavin Patterson said: “I’m delighted that so many BT people are sharing in the company’s success through our saveshare plan. BT was facing tough times five years ago and this was reflected in the share price.”
Former chief executive Ian Livingston, who left the business last year, is credited with successfully reviving BT. When he became BT boss in June 2008, the former state-owned monopoly was burdened with huge debts and spiralling costs.
He spearheaded a major turnaround, which involved slashing overheads and bringing its pension deficit under control.
More recently Mr Livingston oversaw the rolling out of super-fast fibre optic broadband and last year expanded into sport broadcasting with a deal to show live Premier League games.