Safaricom employees have yet another chance to reap from the rising price of the telecommunications company's stock after the capital markets regulator approved sale of an additional batch of 8.62 million shares to the staff at nearly half the current market rate. Under the Safaricom Employee Share Option Plan (ESOP), the qualifying employees get to buy their allocation at Sh5.40 a share. This means they will stand to earn a premium of Sh4.60 a share going by Thursdays' closing price of Sh10 per share. Collectively, the Safaricom employees are looking at a potential upside of Sh40 million on the additional ESOP shares, which are scheduled to begin trading at the bourse on Friday. The telco's director for corporate affairs Nzioka Waita said in an interview that the 8.62 million share issue is in addition to a batch of 36 million that the employees had taken up by August, taking the total shares sold under the ESOP plan to 44.62 million. "The position at the moment is that those shares not taken up by February 26 next year will lapse," said Mr Waita . The Safaricom stock has rebounded in 2013, nearly doubling in price from the January level. The company had set aside 101 million shares to be allocated to staff in 2010. Under the terms of the ESOP, staff members could not exercise the shares before February 2013 and employees who wished to participate had to remain employed with Safaricom by that date. READ: Ex-Safaricom staff miss out on Sh328m worth of shares By February 2013 , however, only 69 million shares qualified for purchase by the employees, with the remainder lapsing due to employee departures. Tens of Safaricom staff who left the firm over the three years between February 2010 and February 2013 missed out on the ESOP that would have seen them acquire stocks worth at least Sh278 million in the telco. The ESOP was a one-off scheme to motivate staff loyal to the company. In an earlier email response to a Business Daily query in September, Mr Waita predicted that eventually all 69 million qualifying shares would be bought by Safaricom staff considering the sustained rise of the share in the market. The telco, however, has said the increased take-up of the shares cannot be just attributed to the 2013 price increase. The 36 million shares taken up by August began trading at the Nairobi Securities Exchange from October 1 , when the share price of Safaricom stood at Sh8.70. These shares were approved for listing by the Safaricom board and the Capital Markets Authority on September 10 . Safaricom listed on the NSE in June 2008 , with the shares selling at an IPO price of Sh5 each in the local pool and Sh5.50 in a limited international pool. The share, however, traded below the IPO price for most of the next four years, going to as low as Sh2.50 in 2011, making it an un-attractive buy for the employees. Companies — such as EABL , KenolKobil , Athi River Mining , Nation Media Group and Equity Bank —have been increasingly looking at stock options as a way of reducing employee turnover while motivating workers.
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