“More and more companies today are no longer offering stock options to all employees.” So began an email to employees from Time Inc. chief executive officer Ann Moore and editor-in-chief Norman Pearlstine, obtained by Bloomberg News and confirmed by spokesman Ed Adler. “As of 2005,” it continued, “Time Inc., as well as the other Time Warner divisions, will be following suit.”
Stock options will still be awarded to some of the company’s employees, the memo reportedly added — just not all 80,000.
Two months ago, of course, the Financial Accounting Standards Board announced that it will require that companies expense the value of stock options and other forms of equity-oriented compensation, effective for periods beginning after June 15, 2005, or the third quarter for companies on a calendar-year financial reporting cycle.
Many large companies have cut back their options packages, Bloomberg noted. Two years ago Microsoft Corp. stopped awarding options, and last year Citigroup Inc. eliminated its renewable stock option plan. Citigroup also shortened the life span of options to 6 years, from 10, to reduce compensation expense, according to the wire service; and Cisco Systems Inc. cut the estimated life of its options by 41 percent, to 3.3 years.
In 2003, Time Warner issued options on 96.9 million shares that were worth $402 million at the time of the grants, reported Bloomberg. If the company had expensed those employee stock options, the costs would have reduced net earnings by $548 million, according to the wire service’s analysis of Securities and Exchange Commission filings.
FASB’s new rules make Time Warner’s use of stock option compensation for all employees “prohibitively expensive,” Moore and Pearlstine wrote in their memo, according to Bloomberg.