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Google delays stock option exchange program

Employees who want to exchange their stock options with options priced at a more marketable value will have to wait until next week, the company says in regulatory filing.


Googlers who want to revalue their underwater stock options will have to wait until Tuesday for the voluntary employee option exchange program to launch, Google said in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday that did not explain why.

The program--which allows allow employees to exchange all or some of their existing stock options for the same number of new options--was scheduled to launch Thursday and end on March 3. Employees were notified of the change in an e-mail sent Wednesday by Laszlo Bock, vice president of People Operations at Google, and which was included in the filing.

"We will send you an e-mail no later than next Tuesday to confirm the new program time line," the e-mail said. "We will be sharing a comprehensive FAQ with you on the date of launch. We understand this delay will raise questions. For regulatory reasons, it is simply not possible to answer all of your questions before the launch, but please know we remain committed to offering this program."

Google announced the one-for-one stock option exchange program last week when it posted its fourth quarter results, which included a decline in earnings from a year ago that were impacted by stock option expenses.

The program is intended to create more incentives for employees to remain at the company. Given that Google stock rose to greater than $700 a share in late 2007 and now trades around $340 a share, many employees would otherwise find themselves holding worthless options.

Google said last week that the new options were expected to have an exercise price equal to the closing per-share price on March 2 and that stock options with exercise prices above that would be eligible for exchange. The company also said it expected to take a stock-based compensation charge of $460 million in the first quarter as a result of the program.