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Microsoft workers cash options for $382 million

The software giant says about 50 percent of eligible employees sold their underwater stock options, as the company carries out changes to the way it compensates its workers.

Microsoft disclosed Thursday that about half of the employees eligible to sell their underwater stock options to a Wall Street firm did so, generating $382 million in proceeds that will be awarded to employees.

In a filing with the SEC, the software giant said it plans to dole out the money to most employees in stages, with plans to distribute $218 million to participating employees in December. This represents the culmination of a program Microsoft announced in July, as part of a series of changes it made in the way it compensates its workers.

At that time, the company said it would switch from its practice of awarding stock options to employees and instead would start granting actual shares of restricted stock.

Employees in the United States who are due to receive less than $20,000 from the program will be paid in one installment later this month, while those due more money will be paid in two or three installments over the next three years.

Staggering the payments is designed to increase retention, as employees need to remain with Microsoft to receive the payout.

For overseas employees, rules vary by country, with workers in a few countries not eligible for the program because of local rules. The payment schedule also differs in some nations including Australia, Canada, Germany, Hungary, India, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Singapore, Spain and Venezuela.

Microsoft said it may still implement similar programs in one or more of the countries where employees were not able to take part in the original program

The value employees received for the shares was based on a complex set of formulas that varied based on the exercise price of the options and when the options were set to expire.

The formulas also involved taking the average selling price of Microsoft shares between Nov. 14 and Dec. 8, during which time the shares had an average value of $25.57.

The company said 51 percent of eligible employees took part in the program, with 344.6 million of the 621.4 million eligible options being tendered.