RALEIGH, N.C. — Stunned by a totally unexpected bonus of $12,500 each, the 185 employees of pharmaceutical firm Schwarz Pharma in North Raleigh could be forgiven for shouting “Danke!”, “Wunderbar!”and “Frohe Weihnachten!” on Friday.

That’s German, by the way, for “thank you”, “wonderful”, and “merry Christmas.”

“A lot of people were very, very appreciative — they were totally shocked,” said Barbara Berg, director of human resources for Schwarz Biosciences in Raleigh. “They were overwhelmed by the generosity. You could see it in their faces.”

Schwarz Pharma, which is based in Germany, announced the bonuses after the family that holds a majority interest in the firm received regulatory approval to sell it to a Belgian rival. Schwarz Biosciences, which is the research and development arm of the company, operates offices in Raleigh and in Monheim, Germany.

“This was totally, totally out of the blue,” said Antje Witte, vice president of corporate communications for the parent Schwarz company, in a telephone interview from Germany. “I still have goose pimples thinking about it.

“This was a way of saying thank you for loyalty and performance and as an incentive to continue to do a good job with the new company,” she added.

The news made headlines in German newspapers where reporters greeted employees as they arrived at work Friday morning.

Rolf Schwarz-Schuette, the 86-year-old founder of the firm which he launched in 1946, said each of the 4,500 employees would receive as much as 10,000 euros, or about $12,500, as a special farewell bonus. All employees received the same amount with the exception of part-time workers, Witte said.

“Every full time employee was treated equally regardless of position,” she added. The bonus will be paid before the end of December.

The Schwarz family, which held 59.2 percent of the Schwarz Pharma stock, agreed to sell out to UCB SA of Belgium for $5.86 billion.

Stockbrokers in Europe welcomed the news, sending shares of UCB SA up 2.4 percent. One broker told the AFX news agency that the bonuses were a positive sign for UCB SA.

Convincing Schwarz employees to stay with UCB SA once the merger occurs was a reason for the bonuses, Witte said.

“We want people to stay with the new company and make it better,” she explained, “especially the Raleigh people because of their involvement in research and development.”

The Raleigh operation, which opened in 2000, is researching treatments for neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s, epilepsy and restless leg syndrome, Witte said. UCB SA is known for its work in neurology research and products.

To Berg, a 10-year employee of Schwarz, the bonuses reflected the Schwarz family’s attitude toward workers.

“The company has always treated us as part of the family,” she said.

Schwarz Pharma: www.schwarzpharma.com