ARM plans to charge options against profits

UK market's first 'we're not Enron, oh no sir' move

For some time now British businesses have been donning their most sincere expressions and stressing that Enron/Worldcom style shenanigans could not happen here, because UK accounting standards on creative counting are somewhat tighter than the US version. But just in case, chipmaker ARM is reportedly twiddling its numbers with a view to charging the cost of share options against profits.

According to the Independent on Sunday, the company is in talks with auditors PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWoo), and CEO Robin Saxby is likely to make a statement on the subject when the company announces its Q2 results tomorrow.

The IoS quotes analysts as suggesting a restatement taking options into account would have cut ARM's post-tax earnings last year by 34 per cent, but declines to make any guesses as regards the impact on this year's figures. The Register however reckons that as ARM's stock price is something like a third of what it was in December, and half the price of the last major wodge of options we saw going out, options issued this year ain't going to hurt any time soon.

Grief, issuing the equivalent of Confederate dollars to execs while the stock price goes through the floor could even be viewed as a more fiscally prudent remuneration mechanism than actually paying them more salary. As the market opened this morning ARM's stock price dropped 10 per cent to around 125p, then pulled itself together slightly. Whether this is because the punters recognise ARM's price is already ridiculous, or whether it's because like most people in the UK they haven't read the IoS, is too early to say. ®

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