Axa cuts 700 jobs to slow mounting losses

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The Independent Online

Axa, the French insurance group, is cutting 700 jobs from its UK general insurance operations in an attempt to stem spiralling losses at its property and casualty business.

The redundancies, which affect 14 per cent of the UK workforce, follow a strategic review that will see Axa invest £100m in the business over the next three years.

"We are looking to reduce our cost base by 20 per cent by 2004. It's about streamlining the business and making it more efficient," said Peter Hubbard, the chief executive of the UK-based Axa Insurance.

The bulk of the job losses will fall in Essex, where Axa will close a call centre. Another 230 jobs will be axed at a claims-processing unit in Cardiff.

Mr Hubbard said the move would "absolutely" be enough to turn around the property and casualty business, which made a loss of £78m in 2001. He blamed the complexity of the business, adding that "service overall in the insurance sector needs to improve".

Like other insurers, Axa has had to restructure its operations and cut costs in the wake of the recent slump in equity markets and huge claims from the 11 September terror attacks in New York.

Separately, the pensions group Scottish Provident, which is part of Abbey National, said that up to 210 jobs were at risk from its decision to close its offices in Kendal, Cumbria.

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