Williams Cos. looking at layoffs

Monday, June 10th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Williams Companies has a reality check. They announced Monday they're scaling back their energy-trading business. And that includes layoffs.

Steve Malcolm, the head of Williams, says it's quote "a realistic response to the current environment." That current environment is the investment community. They've lost all confidence in energy trading. And somehow Williams has to get it back.

The company's credit rating keeps getting reduced. And their stock price keeps slipping. Monday, they announced they're cutting back the money they devote to energy trading by one-third, from 1.5 billion to 1 billion. Unfortunately, that means some people in the energy-trading department will be fired.

The company isn't saying how many, but most traders work in the Tulsa office. As painful as it is, one investor says the cost cutting will be viewed on Wall Street as a positive move. But he says they need to be as candid as possible. Fredric Russell with Fredric Russell Investment Management Company, "The closer Williams gets to admitting its challenges and the more specifics it gives to the investment community, the more numbers, the more hard facts, the better its solutions will be and the easier its public relations effort."

One report says the number of layoffs could be in the 100 to 125 range. But Williams says it doesn't know yet how many.