WorldCom Europe upbeat despite rumoured sell-off

The European arm of WorldCom has said it remains upbeat about its business prospects, despite growing speculation about declining...

The European arm of WorldCom has said it remains upbeat about its business prospects, despite growing speculation about declining sales, fleeing customers and a possible sell-off.

The Financial Times reported today that sales at WorldCom's European division have plummeted nearly 50% since the parent company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on 21 July.

The paper based the report on a conference call that Lucy Woods, chief executive officer of WorldCom's international division in London, held with the unit's employees last week.

"Contrary to news reports, our sales in WorldCom's European operations have not fallen by 50%," Woods said in a statement today in response to the Financial Times report.

"Our sales performance in Europe remains solid and continues to be one of the company's largest growth drivers. We remain a core part of WorldCom's operations," she added.

In last week's conference call, Woods said that July sales had been strong despite a traditionally quiet month. She urged employees to remain "calm" as WorldCom underwent restructuring in the US.

"Management in the US is telling us that we are a core part of the group's business and are not up for sale," she said.

The WorldCom international division currently employs 8,300 people, according to Woods. As part of a group-wide programme to trim costs, the unit cut 450 jobs "several months ago but none since then", she said.

Woods declined to comment on rumours that the European unit is planning a huge wave of layoffs and is losing about $500m (£319.3m) a year.

Julian Lewett, chief analyst at Ovum in London, said that WorldCom's international businesses in Europe and Asia were likely to be sold off. He expected AT&T to be a major contender in acquiring key assets of its global rival.

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