Two Top Firms Said Preparing For Biggest Job Cull Yet

Pig in Lipstick

CNBC's Charlie Gasparino has reported that the number of jobs likely to go in the Bank of America / Merrill Lynch merger could be far higher than originally thought. Gasparino, who is known to have reliable sources close to Merrill, said Tuesday that he was hearing that 'there will be a lot of layoffs. Something like 30,000 (jobs will go) over a period of time. It could be through attrition and through selling of businesses. But that workforce will come down dramatically'.

Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain said a few weeks back that 'thousands' of jobs would go in the merger, which is due to close at year-end, and Bank of America boss Ken Lewis warned last month about a 'fairly significant number (of job losses) because of the overlap'. Nevertheless, 30,000 is a far higher number than originally feared. And this, of course, is down in the main to the deteriorating economic conditions globally, which has adversely impacted bank profits. The merger of these two banking giants, which just a few weeks ago was being lauded from the rooftops, is now not looking so hot, and some Bank of America shareholders have expressed concern that it will merely end up being a significant drag on earnings.

And as investment banking revenues in most areas have fallen off a cliff, it is this area where many job cuts will come, with New York and London likely to take the biggest hits. Bank of America is looking to capture around $7bn in cost savings from the deal, and Lewis has a reputation of moving quickly to integrate businesses. Most of the job losses are thought likely to have been put to bed by the end of March 2009.

Merrill staff are also said to be concerned that long-serving employees let go in the New Year will do so on reduce severance terms. Citigroup confirmed earlier this week that staff with 10 years service who get laid-off in the US in 2009 will no longer benefit from enhanced severance. The move was made for cost control reasons, and fears are now growing that several other firms will follow Citi's lead.

Bloomberg reports that Citigroup has now fired most of the employees at its real estate investment bank unit in Asia, CityWire says that ING Real Estate Investment Management has laid-off around 32 UK staff, and The Financial Times reports that buyout firm 3i is to cull 100 of its 660 employees. Half the cuts are said likely to come in the UK, with back office and support staff likely to be the most affected.

Finally, Reuters reports that, according to its sources, Deutsche Bank is closing its equity and derivatives trading businesses in Zurich, with the loss of around 30 jobs.

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