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November 19, 2008

Neptune Orient, Citi to cut jobs in Singapore
Singapore's Neptune Orient Lines Ltd., Southeast Asia's largest container shipper, said it will cut 1,000 jobs to help save $200 million next year as a global slowdown in trade accelerates, reported Reuters.

Most of the layoffs will take place in North America, the company said Wednesday. Some 50 workers will be let go in Singapore.

"The negative conditions we are seeing in the market place are unprecedented in our industry's history," president and chief executive Ron Widdows said in a statement.

Slowing global economic activity has hurt company profits and led to widespread job cuts. Japan and Europe recently slipped into recession, while banking giant Citigroup Inc. said earlier this week it planned to cut 52,000 jobs.

Neptune Orient said last month it would lower capacity to reduce operating costs.

"Now, in view of the deteriorating market conditions, we take these additional steps," Widdows said. "This reflects our considered view that what we are seeing goes beyond a normal cyclical downturn."

The restructuring will incur a $33 million charge in the company's fourth quarter financial results, and additional charges for 2009.

"The outlook for profitability in 2009 is grim," the company said.

Neptune Orient will also move its regional headquarters in Oakland, California to a less expensive area, the company said, without specifying where.

Meanwhile, Reuters quoted unnamed sources as saying that Citigroup may cut less than 300 jobs in Singapore, a sign Asia could see much smaller cuts than other regions as part of the US bank's global restructuring plan.

The job cuts, which will be implemented soon, are part of plans revealed by Citigroup on Monday to cut 52,000 staff globally by early next year in a dramatic move to restore the second-biggest US bank to health.

Citigroup employs about 9,000 people in Singapore and the layoffs account for about 3 percent of its staff, said a source who declined to be identified because the plans were not public.

"In Singapore, there will be modest headcount reductions," a bank spokesman said. "Our business in Singapore continues to register robust year-on-year growth and remains a regional center for management and operations for Citi globally."

Citi recently opened its 20th branch in the city-state, a growing center for financial services and private banking.

It was unclear how many jobs will be cut in other parts of Asia. Citi employs 55,000 people in Asia including Japan.

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