More companies are offering shares to workers, says report

More companies taking a listing on the UK Stock Market offered shares to their entire workforce last year than ever before, according to Paisner & Co's annual survey Employee Participation in Flotations.

Paisner employment partner David Cohen said that in the 10 years he had been conducting the survey, the proportion of floating companies offering shares to their entire workforce had increased from around a third to 62 per cent last year, or 39 of the 63 companies that floated on the Stock Exchange.

Cohen said: “There has been a cultural change. Companies now recognise that share ownership is valuable not only for executives at the top, but – if it is done properly – it can actually motivate people throughout the work force.”

At the same time, hordes of top executives continued to enrich themselves through their share options.

A total of six directors from road services and building products company Streamline Holdings, hotel group Scottish Highland Hotels and advertising agency The Maiden Group would have made themselves millionaires if they had exercised their share options at flotation last year.

Terence Simpson, the chief executive of Streamline Holdings, was potentially the biggest winner. He could have sold out for £2.17m.

During the 10 years of the survey, 122 directors have had share options worth more than £250,000, and 28 have had options worth more than £1m. But Cohen said that these options were increasingly being linked to performance.

In the past three years, more than 90 per cent of floating companies have imposed targets on their directors, largely, Cohen said, because associations of institutional shareholders had called for them in 1993.

The most commonly used target is bringing earnings per share above the Retail Price Index plus two per cent a year. But Cohen said: “There is a move by institutional investors away from this measure – it is seen as not demanding enough. The trouble is, because the Association of British Insurers backed it, it is quite hard for them to change their minds.”