Lei Jun, the founder and chairman of Xiaomi. Photo: YouTube/Yang Lan Official Channel
Lei Jun, the founder and chairman of Xiaomi. Photo: YouTube/Yang Lan Official Channel

Chinese New Year has come early for Xiaomi Corporation staff. The Chinese smartphone manufacturer announced it had issued 210 million class B restricted shares to employees under a stock incentive scheme.

Based on Wednesday’s closing price of HK$12.92 (US$1.65), these shares, equivalent to about 0.89% of the issued capital, were worth HK$2.56 billion.

The incentive is equivalent to HK$170,000 per staff member as Xiaomi has more than 15,000 on the staff payroll. It is common practice for Chinese corporations to offer a staff bonus ahead of the Chinese New Year, which is one month away.

The Xiaomi Corp, which was listed last July, offered a US$1.5 billion award in stock to founder Lei Jun just before the listing in one of the biggest corporate paydays in history.

That allows Lei to own more than 30% in Xiaomi A shares, but he effectively controls 56% of its voting rights. Since listing, Xiaomi had accumulatively declined 24% to HK$12.92 as of Wednesday, a two-month low from its offer price of HK$17.

Xiaomi swung to a net profit of 2.48 billion yuan (US$360.6 million) in the three months ended on September 30, 2018, compared with an 11 billion yuan loss in the same period a year earlier, thanks to robust sales in India and Europe.

The share giveaway to staff yesterday would likely include Lu Weibing, the newly hired gun for its mobile phone unit.

Lu was the president of Jinli Mobile for nearly nine years and Gionee for seven years. In his official appointment, Xiaomi did not announce Lu’s specific duties.

But local papers speculated he would be in charge of RedMi, a cheaper version of the Mi phone, which aspired to grow outside China.