Floundering Nortel to cut 5,000 more workers

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Floundering Nortel to cut 5,000 more workers
Tech giant makes second revision, raises total layoffs to 20,000
From Canadian Press

Nortel Networks reported a first-quarter net loss of $2.58 billion (U.S.) on Thursday and announced it will cut 5,000 more jobs this year because of a sharp slowdown in North American telecom spending.
Nortel had already planned to reduce its workforce by 15,000 this year. It said Thursday the number of job cuts will deepen to 20,000 by mid-2001, with 10,000 already gone.

This will mean a cut of about one-quarter of its employees since the beginning of the year, from over 80,000 worldwide, in an effort to save $2 billion (U.S.) annually.

Although the Brampton, Ont.-based company wouldn't predict its financial performance for the next quarter or for the rest of 2001, Nortel CEO John Roth suggested the latest job cuts may be the last this year.

''We don't want to keep dragging this on. This, we think, will put us there,'' Roth said in an interview. ''It's hard on our employees, certainly, but by the same token it puts Nortel on the right foot going forward.''

Lawrence Surtees, senior telecom analyst at research firm IDC Canada, said ''there was absolutely no surprise'' in Thursday's financial numbers after Nortel had twice reduced its expectations for the quarter.

The question now is: ''Where are they cutting all these people without having some material impact on the company?''

In the three months ended March 31, Nortel, which reports in U.S. dollars, said revenue fell to $6.18 billion, down from $6.32 billion a year earlier.

Its operating loss, which excludes acquisition-related costs, was $385 million, or 12 cents a share, compared with an operating profit a year ago of $347 million.

''We're kind of hopeful that the quarter we just finished should be our worst quarter of the year from a bottom-line perspective,'' Roth said.

''As we get these kinds of things behind us, we hopefully will be looking upward.''

Before the quarterly results were released, Nortel shares closed at $27.51 on the Toronto Stock Exchange, up one cent for the day but far below last summer's peak of $124.50.

In after-hours U.S. trading, the stock initially fell below the closing price of $17.80 (U.S.) but later rose to $18.15 with 2.5 million shares traded.

Nortel had warned at the end of March that it would post an operating loss for the quarter of 10 to 12 cents a share as a lack of capital stopped telecommunications companies from spending on the equipment Nortel supplies.

The net loss for the quarter, which includes the cost of acquisitions, was 82 cents US a share. That included a charge of $1.7 billion for goodwill, a non-cash expense related to billions of dollars Nortel has spent in recent years to acquire other technology companies.

''I just can't help but wonder, that acquisition binge, how much of (the loss) is that and how many of those acquisitions actually have or will ever pay off anything,'' Surtees said.

Nortel said revenues in the United States fell 23 per cent in the first quarter, compared with the same period of 2000. In contrast, revenues from Canada fell only two per cent and Nortel's business outside the U.S. and Canada grew 38 per cent.

''The lack of available funding from the capital markets, high debt levels at many service providers and the compounding effect of the U.S. economic downturn and its impact on other regions will continue to constrain capital spending by service providers,'' Roth stated.

''The capital markets are being relatively indiscriminate in terms of who they deny capital to, they're really just shut down to everybody, they want to see this industry rationalized,'' he added in an interview.

''Right now, even though customers want to add capacity they don't have the funds to do it.''

Companies are delaying buying new network equipment because they can scoop up distressed assets, Roth said, but predicted: ''The ability to do that will come to an end in four months or so.''

The closest he would come to a specific prediction was this: ''We're hopeful that beyond this quarter things should start to clarify a bit, but at this point it's still cloudy enough that we wouldn't want to venture a forecast.''

Nortel's chief financial officer, Frank Dunn, said in a conference call with analysts that when it comes to guidance ''I've learned that whatever I say is going to be wrong, so I shouldn't be saying it.''
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2001-4-19 -05:00

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