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Microsoft Gives Workers More Stock

By MICHAEL J. MARTINEZ, AP Business Writer

SEATTLE (AP) - Microsoft employees will receive a new bundle of stock options at Monday's low closing price, a move designed to offset the stock's poor performance on Wall Street in recent weeks.

In an internal e-mail obtained by The Associated Press, Microsoft's chief executive, Steve Ballmer, told all company employees they would receive an additional stock option grant equal to any previous grants they had received since last July.

``I think the (original) grants will have value long-run, but I want to pre-empt undue concerns by awarding these new grants that will let people see returns much sooner,'' Ballmer wrote in his e-mail, sent early this morning.

Under the new plan, employees will be granted options to buy stock at $66.621/2, Monday's 4 p.m. closing price on the Nasdaq Stock Market and the company's lowest closing price in the past year.

Microsoft shares were up $2.311/4 to $68.933/4 today in early afternoon trading on the Nasdaq, after falling 16 percent on Monday. The stock has fallen 38 percent since the end of March and is well off its 52-week high of $119.933/4.

Rank-and-file employees at Microsoft have the opportunity to receive additional stock option grants each July as part of their annual performance reviews. At the end of last July, Microsoft shares were trading at $85.811/4.

Stock options are also granted when an employee is first hired as well as for meritorious work. Although Microsoft says its employees are paid at industry levels, the stock options have been the path to vast wealth for thousands of workers as Microsoft's stock soared throughout the 1990s.

``This gives broad opportunity to people in the company to aspire to additional growth and compensation,'' Ballmer wrote. ``We will accompany this with increased opportunities for training, mentoring and professional development.''

The CEO stressed that employees needed to take a long-term view of the company and not let recent developments - including the company's antitrust battles and its stock slide this month - dissuade them.

``I think it's important for all of us to recognize that ultimately, taking the long-term view is the path to future success and prosperity - for Microsoft and for each of you,'' he wrote.


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