- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 17, 2009

DENVER (AP) - The head of energy provider Southern Co. received a 2008 compensation package valued at $8.1 million, according to an analysis by The Associated Press, up about 29 percent from the previous year largely because of a jump in his performance-based bonus.

David M. Ratcliffe, chairman, chief executive and president of the Atlanta-based company, received a base salary of $1.12 million and non-equity incentive plan compensation of $5.3 million, according to a filing Tuesday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Ratcliffe also received stock and option awards valued at $1.67 million when granted on Feb. 18, 2008, the company stated. However, the stock and option awards have an exercise price of $35.78, above the stock’s Tuesday closing price of $28.82, making the awards of little current value absent a jump in share price.

Other compensation totaled $79,378 for retirement benefits and other perks.

The Associated Press formula is designed to isolate the value the company’s board placed on the executive’s total compensation package during the last fiscal year. It includes salary, bonus, performance-related bonuses, perks, above-market returns on deferred compensation and the estimated value of stock options and awards granted during the year. The calculations don’t include changes in the present value of pension benefits, and they sometimes differ from the totals companies list in the summary compensation table of proxy statements filed with the SEC, which reflect the size of the accounting charge taken for the executive’s compensation in the previous fiscal year.

Southern has said its 2008 performance was affected by a decline in electricity sales and usage which it blamed on the recession. The company earned $1.74 billion, or $2.26 a share, in 2008 compared with $1.73 billion, or $2.29 a share, the previous year.

Its shares opened 2008 at $38.75 and rose above $40 in early January, but edged lower to end 2008 at $37. The 5 percent decline was substantially better than many energy stocks experienced amid the market meltdown and plunge in oil prices. But shares have continued to decline in the first few months of 2009, closing Tuesday at $28.82.

In 2007, Ratcliffe earned a base salary of about $1.1 million; a performance-based bonus of $2.9 million; stock and option awards valued at $2.2 million when granted; and $88,585 in other compensation. He also received $37,004 in above-market earnings on deferred compensation.

Southern acquires, builds and operates power production and delivery facilities. Its holdings include Alabama Power, Georgia Power, Gulf Power and Mississippi Power.

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