Oceonics axes 20% of workers

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The Independent Online
Oceonics, the marine survey group, has shed 131 jobs - equal to 20 per cent of its workforce - in the last few months as the depressed oil price further curtailed activity.

The oil price, which was as low as $13 a barrel in the first half of this year, also hit directors' pay packets. The five-strong board has agreed to cut directors' remuneration. Mike Hutchinson, the £65,000-a-year finance director, is resigning.

Stephen Thomson, managing director, said board members would see reductions in wages and various allowances, but was unable to give specific figures.

Mr Thomson said trading conditions remained tough, although the better oil price had led to some optimism about work in the development and maintenance side of oil and gas fields in the North Sea.

Besides suffering a physical contraction in the amount of work available, the service companies have had to pitch for contracts at much keener prices, squeezing profit margins.

Oceonics yesterday reported a £1.7m loss for the six months to September, following on from the £1.06m loss in the second half of last year. In the first half of 1993/94, the company made a profit of £222,000.

The company is still unable to pay the final instalment of accrued dividend arrears on the redeemable preference shares, which means that it cannot think about when it will be able to resume payments to ordinary shareholders.

Oceonics has recruited David Arnold, formerly finance director at the Qubit navigation software and systems supplier, to replace Mr Hutchinson, who was employed on a one-year rolling contract.

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