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AltaVista shuffles European staff, offices

The struggling Web portal says it's restructuring its European operations in response to market conditions.

Web portal AltaVista said Friday it has restructured its internal European sales force in response to market conditions.

AltaVista declined to provide details about the reorganization but said "a slight number of people" in its European offices might be laid off, according to company spokesman David Emanuel.

"This is not a reduction in force," Emanuel said. "This has just been a reorganization to centralize our sales force...We felt this model will better suit our business, our advertisers and our partners, and it's based on changing market conditions within the European ad community."

The move comes as AltaVista and other Internet-based companies seek shelter from the economic storm. For a year, the CMGI-backed company has been struggling as it gravitates from its efforts as a Web portal toward a focus on Web searches.

In January, the company pulled plans for an initial public offering, citing poor market conditions. The following week, AltaVista laid off 25 percent of its work force, or 200 employees, in an effort to reduce costs and reach profitability.

About a month later, the Better Business Bureau found the site too loose in preventing children from visiting adult-only areas. AltaVista decided to abandon many of its community features, including bulletin boards, chat rooms and online registration. The company said that decision was part of a planned overall restructuring of its services.

The company, however, said that its sites in Europe are operational and showing good traffic and growth.

Although AltaVista would not say if senior management will be affected by the restructuring, Emanuel said "it could affect a variety of positions."

"We feel the structure will better position us for market opportunities and different conditions within Europe," Emanuel said.

The company's headquarters are in the United Kingdom with sales offices there and in France, Germany and Italy. AltaVista also has Web sites designed for people in various countries, including the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, Korea, Brazil and New Zealand.