NTL and Littlewoods prepare to shed thousands of jobs

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The Independent Online

More than 8,200 job cuts were unveiled by Littlewoods and NTL yesterday as the mail order giant announced plans to close three warehouses and the cable broadcaster confirmed it was shedding 6,000 staff as a result of its merger with Telewest.

Littlewoods, the home shopping group owned by the entrepreneurial twins David and Frederick Barclay, will close three warehouses, at Eccles, Wigan and Worcester, next year with the loss of 1,200 jobs.

The company, which employs about 21,500, wants to move all of its warehouse operations to a new modern site at Shaw in Oldham, near Manchester, and that it hoped to redeploy about 300 staff. It also plans to cut 1,000 staff at call-centres.

NTL, meanwhile, is planning to cut 6,000 jobs by the end of 2007, in a move designed to save £250m a year at a one-off cost of £250m. However, 3,000 of the affected staff will be outsourced, with IBM taking on 1,535 in Liverpool, Swansea and Teesside from July. NTL said the "vast majority" of the cuts will be achieved through voluntary redundancies and natural attrition.

The cable company also went on the offensive yesterday after losing out on Premier League football broadcast rights over the next three seasons, saying the auction process was "flawed".

The Premier League raised £1.7bn via the auction last week, with BSkyB and the Irish broadcaster Setanta sharing the spoils. The auction was conducted via sealed bids and divided each season's games into six packages.

Jim Mooney, NTL's chairman, said: "The auction process was flawed." He argued that bidding on individual packages handed Sky an advantage due to its experience of broadcasting Premier League matches - it has owned the rights since 1992. This gave the company a better view on what return on investment could be recouped on each package.

NTL said it was hampered by the fact it could not guarantee it would achieve critical mass via the auction and thus could not prove it would make an economic return on its investment, particularly after BSkyB won three of the most attractive packages in the first round of bidding. But analysts said these issues did not stop Setanta successfully bidding for two packages. NTL will now have to buy football from BSkyB and Setanta for the three-season deal, which starts in 2007.

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