HP Australia braces to cut up to 400 local jobs

The Australian arm of Hewlett-Packard is bracing for deep cuts, with up to 400 local positions in flux as the vendor looks at ways to consolidate its Asia-Pacific operations out of Singapore.

The retrenchments come as part of a massive 14,500 job cut delivered by HP's latest boss, Mark Hurd, in an effort to shave some $US1.9 billion a year from the company's balance sheet and reshape its strategic direction after the acquisition of Compaq in 2002.

One option believed to be under consideration is the consolidation a range of antipodean operations and management functions into HP's Singaporean regional base to cut down on duplication of functions.

While HP has retained or increased market share in its core printer and server sectors, a technology equities analyst who declined to be named told Computerworld external factors including currency fluctuations and clouds gathering over the Australia's two- to five-year economic outlook were more likely triggers for layoffs.

"It is likely the economy looks set to ease rather than expand here, especially in terms of operational spending. There's a lot of talk in Australia about a booming resources sector - but that doesn't automatically translate to either jobs or sales for services. It's easier to cut now and add later," the analyst said.

He added it was unlikely HP's Australian operation would "have much say if any" about where and how many cuts will be made.

HP employs around 2800 people in Australia.

However, a local HP spokesman dismissed any speculation on job cuts as "premature", saying the vendor is yet to map out any firm plans for its local future, but confirmed HP's Australian customer service group will be merged with the technology services group.

The spokesman said it was incorrect to assume worldwide aggregate cuts of 10 percent would translate quid pro quo to Australia. The spokesman said he could "categorically deny [Australian retrenchment] figures because they have not yet been set".

"We are not making any comment about workforce changes until we do due diligence. We haven't [calculated] workforce reduction in Australia. The workforce changes are not intended to affect customers."

The spokesman said while the reorganization was a "major priority", HP still had "no definitive timeframe" for the cuts to bite.

"It's a global review," the spokesman said.

HP's CEO and president Mark Hurd said after a "thorough review of our business, we have formulated a plan that will enable HP to begin delivering its full potential".

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