First things first: 1.9 million activations is nothing to scoff at. It’s a huge number, and represents AT&T and Apple’s unquestionable success in the smartphone arena. Including the 4th Quarter results, the company can claim 4.3 million total iPhone activations since the introduction of the iPhone 3G, an impressive number by anyone’s standards and a certain earmark of Apple and AT&T’s continuing dominance in the consumer market. The company also revealed, somewhat cryptically, that iPhone users generate “higher revenue” and “lower churn rates”. Good, right? Right. On the other hand, the company also reported that its general earnings were down to $2.4 billion from $3.1 billion just one year prior. The drop is completely understandable, however, given the general recession and the fact that the company seems to be fending off any sort of massive disruption. On another, slightly more comical note, AT&T blamed some of its earnings drop on its “iPhone 3G Initiative” designed to build out coverage and tower infrastructure to cope with the increased network demands. We’re not sure about you, but it doesn’t seem like the aforementioned initiative has hit anywhere close to our home towers…
…and over 35,000 folks prepare to start searching for a new job. So sad. This latest bit of bad news comes after Circuit City’s lengthy, and apparently fruitless, search for a buyer. The company has been trying to sell its assets for quite some time now. It seems, however, that faced with a ticking clock and an utter lack of interest from outside parties Circuit City has made an agreement with a liquidation firm to get rid of all of its material assets and close shop. The company filed for bankruptcy this morning in Richmond, Virginia. While there will certainly be a bit of a “all items must go” sale frenzy, this is ultimately very bad news for the economy, electronics industry, and the 10’s of thousands of employees that now find themselves without a job. Sadly, it also begs the following question: Who will be the next to fall?
Things aren’t looking too hot for Sony CEO Howard Stringer. Back in October his company predicted that it would end its current fiscal year with an operating profit of $2.2-billion but a Japanese newspaper is reporting Sony is well on track for a loss of at least $1.1 billion. So what happened to Sony? For starters the Japanese economy, the second largest in the world, was one of hardest hit victims of the credit crunch. Japan’s largest stock market index, the Nikkei 225, ended 2008 down 50% from where it was back in June. Add to this the ongoing fear of deflation due to the rapidly strengthening Yen, soaring national debt, low consumer confidence and very bleak picture is painted of an economy that just doesn’t have the cash to be buying high-end consumer electronics. And of course it doesn’t help that every single nation in the Western world is having severe economic troubles of its own. The only positive thing going for Sony (if you can even call if that) is that its Q4 ends in March, meaning it has a couple more months to drastically cut costs. If Sony don’t make some fairly major moves, its losses on the year could rise to as much as $2-billion. Guess that means the $399 price tag on the PS3 isn’t going to come down any time soon.
It looks like Sprint’s Voluntary Separation Probgram (VSP) we scooped last month didn’t quite have the impact the company had hoped for. Surprising that employees didn’t jump at the opportunity to leave their jobs as the unemployment rate in this country continues to skyrocket. The deadline for Sprint employees to express interest in the VSP was this past Wednesday and just six days later, Sprint CFO Bob Brust began speaking publicly of impending company-wide job cuts at the UBS annual media and communications conference. Not good.
The philosophy has to be that a company never went out of business because it took too many costs out. A company goes out of business because you didn’t take enough costs out. As you take costs out, you can always overshoot it. In fact, if we overshoot it, you know you did a good job because the pain is so loud, and you can always go back in and add something. We are going to be in the mode of overshooting, so the number will be a big number.
Brust went on to state that Sprint execs would be presenting a plan to the board sometime next month so we can expect layoffs to begin shortly thereafter. Not that is has been any mystery that Sprint’s vitals are declining at frighteningly rapid speeds, but we were surprised to see Burst as vocal as he was. He was even quoted at one point as saying, “We’ve had a lot of trouble with the brands since the [Sprint-Nextel] merger because of dropped calls and bad customer service. As we spend more money on recapturing subscribers, we can get the brand back where it belongs… You’ll see a more aggressive advertising campaign.” Admitting to network issues and bad customer service? How uncharacteristic of a carrier is that? Perhaps it’s a sign of the sheer desperation within the c-suite at Sprint. Whatever the case may be, more rough times are undoubtedly ahead for the carrier and its employees over the coming months and beyond.
In a bit of somber Monday morning news, it appears as if Yahoo is going to proceed with its planned end of the year layoffs which are expected to occur on Wednesday. Originally announced by Jerry Yang on October 21st during Yahoo’s last earnings call, the layoffs have been overshadowed by the news of the dethroning of Jerry Yang and the constant and sometimes false rumors of a Yahoo-Microsoft deal. Pushed aside but not forgotten, a new report provides additional details about the impending Yahoo layoffs:
- The number currently remains at 1,500, although given the current economic environment, several sources at Yahoo expect the eventual numbers to add up to be more that that, up to 2,000.
- The layoffs are mostly across the board. But expect general, human resources and finance to take a bigger hit, since the expenses are cost-based and most of their costs are staff.
- Employees targeted will be told on Wednesday morning with a “normal separation period,” said a source close to the situation, which means they will be out within a few hours on the same day.
- Yahoo execs, sources say, are not expecting any serious problems, i.e. extremely upset employees, because these layoffs have been long anticipated. But there will be security present at its Sunnyvale HQ and elsewhere, as there always is with most big layoffs at any company.
- Most employees do not know if they will be let go yet, nor has management in charge of the cuts made that public. That’s because whole projects might be eliminated, sources said, and the cuts might present yet another chance to restructure more.
- No, Yang is not leaving as CEO quite yet, although this week is a perfect time to name a new CEO and get the focus off of the bad news at Yahoo.
Though the layoffs were expected, prior knowledge does not lessen the blow; especially during the holiday season. Our sympathies and best wishes go out to all Yahoo employees who will be ringing in the New Year while looking for a new job.
In a press release this morning, AT&T announced that it plans to cut 4% of its workforce, amounting to approximately 12,000 jobs, beginning this month. While this news might not come as a surprise – it’s hard to be surprised by layoff announcements these days – it is a move that will impact a tremendous amount of people. The layoffs are slated to begin this month and will continue throughout 2009. AT&T is allocating $600 million as severance for those affected, but that will hardly change the fact that they will be in competition with the hundreds of thousands of others who have been laid off during this global economic crisis. AT&T has stated that while it is reducing manpower in many areas it will continue to add jobs in certain divisions such as wireless, video and broadband. As always, our sympathy and best wishes go out to those affected by this announcement.
Regardless of how large, powerful and influential a company is, no one is recession-proof. Internet search giant Google has been laying off employees since this summer, and it has been doing so under the news radar for the most part. The SEC requires companies to disclose information regarding layoffs but apparently Google had slipped around the rule and reported its Q3 earnings as expected by saying it had cut down on “operational expenses”. Though Google officially has 20,123 employees, there are an additional 10,000 which are just labeled as temporary operational expenses. However it wants to label those human beings, they are still going to get shafted and are still going to be hurt by this massive cut in manpower. Google’s very own Sergey Brin says, “There is no question that the number (of workers) is too high”.
It isn’t new news that the worsening economy has resulted in layoffs and it now looks like Palm will be falling victim to the increasingly declining consumer product environment. In an effort to keep afloat, Palm Infocenter says the the giant smartphone and software company will be letting go of a chunk of its workforce. While the number of employees it intends to let go has yet to be disclosed, it would appear that it would have to be a substantial number in order to make an impact. The cuts won’t be limited to the US either, as there are plans to do the same internationally. This isn’t good news as Palm puts it:
“The global economic downturn continues to dampen demand for consumer goods around the world, and the impact on the economic environment is worsened by our maturing Centro line and the length of time it is taking to ramp our new Windows Mobile products.”
It would appear as though Palm has adopted a “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve” mentality in terms of getting new products out and revamping some of its smartphones. In addition, the much-hyped Treo Pro has done little to save Palm. Things aren’t looking good for the telecommunications and electronics industries as Palm joins a long line of companies who have been letting go of employees.
In a move similar to what Dell is currently offering its employees, Sprint is also giving employees the option to voluntarily leave the company. While Sprint hasn’t announced anything officially, layoffs have certainly followed voluntary separations in the past. So far, this program is only affecting the Sales and Distribution channel and is not a company-wide offering. Whether it remains isolated in that division or spreads throughout the company is yet to be determined. The only exceptions to those who are allowed to opt-in are the retail employees (including managers) and executive and administrative assistants; that leaves everyone else in the sales division wide open. Of course, Sprint will not short itself where staff numbers are critical, so not everyone who wants to leave will be able to do so. In the meantime, employees considering a mutual termination have until December 8 to express interest. We feel for those who are affected by companies that need to put cost-saving or cost-effective programs into place, especially at Sprint where this is the third year in a row such a program has been offered. Let’s just hope it doesn’t lead to company-wide layoffs. Hit the jump for the official internal email sent to employees this morning.
If you ran a very large company hurting a little in the midst of an economic crisis, what would you do? Well, Dell has the solution for all your woes and conundrums. Step one – encourage your employees to take up to five days of vacation time! The key thing to remember here is to not stress the fact that they will not be getting paid for the time off. You wouldn’t want to spoil the vacation by reminding them that they could be working and earning money instead. Step two – encourage employees to quit their jobs and offer them a little severance package with it, too! You know, everyone is all about instant gratification and while the severance package will cost you now, in the long run you’ll really be saving plenty of money. Even company spokesperson Jess Blackburn says, “The intent is to better position Dell for long-term competitiveness.” Blackburn then goes on to say, “We are asking employees on a voluntary basis to consider taking off (up to) five days … as unpaid time off as a flexible way to reduce costs for the company.” Really? Why not just make the employees work for those five days and not pay them for that time if you really want to cut costs and maintain productivity? At least they’re getting some kind of notice of possible “upcoming events” unlike the poor folks over at Tesla.
If you thought breaking up over a text message was in bad taste, try empathizing with the Tesla employees who were just laid off… via a blog post! That’s right, 90% of the Tesla team in Metro Detroit were let go, but someone assigned to break the news didn’t have the guts to tell them. Instead, the employees found out through their own site that they were finished. What’s to become of the remaining 10%? Those who aren’t notified of their termination today (via a bulletin board at the plant, mind you) have to relocate to San Jose, CA – at least it’s brighter and the weather is more temperate in Cali, right? The problem is getting there when your company won’t help with relocation, moving costs, selling your current home or apartment, or anything else for that matter. They’re essentially being told, “Be glad we didn’t can you. Now get moving!” The official word is as follows:
There will also be some headcount reduction due to consolidation of operations. In anticipation of moving vehicle engineering to our new HQ in San Jose, we are ramping down and will close our Rochester Hills office near Detroit. Good communication, tightly knit engineering and a common company culture are of paramount importance as Tesla grows.
Yes, “good communication” and a “common company culture” are of paramount importance. We’re wondering what the schmuck who wrote this piece was thinking when writing that there would be a “headcount reduction.” With tough times and an economy suffering at exponential rates, one would think that Tesla could have been just a tad more appropriate and tactful with letting their hard working employees go.
That dude pictured above doesn’t look too happy, and who can blame him? He’s probably a tech geek, if not a Blackberry user who is sharing the worries and woes of the mobile telecommunications industry, which is heavily affected by the current economic downturn. With several banks and financial institutions being bailed out by the U.S. government, how can it not trickle down to the phone manufacturers and carriers? RIM is going to be a huge one since a big chunk of its market are the business types, and the fact that its success also depends largely on the success of Wall Street. The worst case scenario is they lose up to 40,000 subscribers — never a pretty thing. It seems tough enough for the mobile market to continue the success its seen over the past few years, but a failing economy could spell disaster. Products are being delayed, funding for R&D will likely be tight, and advertising will eventually have to suffer. Right now, the carriers have to focus on the smartphone market where they not only make a penny or two off high-end devices, but earn sustainable profits from data packages. This can almost never be good for the consumer, but I guess we’ve all gotta pay our share to keep our obsessions afloat.
Handset sales are predicted to go up 10% this year, but the majority of that will likely be from cheaper phones. Established names have struggled and, in Western Europe, sales have declined tremendously for the first half of ’08. Nokia, for example, has had a difficult time selling its high-end devices like the E-Series devices. RIM’s co-chief executive Jim Balsille says no one will ever abandon their handsets, and that’s true once you’ve grown dependent on them, but people will start making sacrifices here and there where they can, and that could hurt us all. With banks failing, the economy spoiling, and gas prices fluctuating between ridiculously high and an arm and a leg and a kidney, will you start holding off on buying those new, shiny, and pricey gadgets?