Rank sheds staff in pounds 20m cost-cutting

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RANK, the UK leisure group that owns Odeon cinemas, Butlins holiday camps and Hard Rock cafes, said yesterday that it would cut 465 jobs as part of a plan to trim costs by pounds 20m in 2000.

Mike Smith, Rank's new chief executive - previously head of the Hilton Group - also announced the appointment of Ian Dyson as Rank's new finance director. Mr Dyson joins from the Hilton group and will take over the combined roles of finance director Nigel Turnbull and commercial director Douglas Yates, who will both leave the company.

Mr Smith said the planned job losses would be spread across the company's divisions in the UK and the US. He confirmed that the redundancies would hit general and administrative staff.

The news came as Rank reported flat half-year profits and cut its dividend to 4p a share from 5.75p. Pre-tax profit for the six months to 30 June was pounds 80m against pounds 81m a year ago.

Mr Smith said that in addition to the job cuts, the group plans to halve capital expenditure and trim office space to help the company improve its future profits and debt position. The group's debts now amount to pounds 1.3bn.

Commenting on speculation that the group would be forced to sell off underperforming divisions such as its Tom Cobleigh pub chain and its nightclub and amusement machines businesses, Mr Smith said: "We are being realistic and we know that we will have to reconsider our portfolio. But I will not be drawn as to where changes will occur."

Rank's shares closed down 3.75p at 270p.

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