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MarchFirst wields layoff ax again

The struggling Internet consulting company starts yet another round of layoffs as it labors toward a cost-cutting goal that it missed with an earlier round of job cuts.

    Struggling Internet consulting company MarchFirst has started yet another round of layoffs.

    Kelly Miller, a spokeswoman for the Chicago-based company, confirmed the layoffs Friday but declined to give further details, saying only that the layoffs were "ongoing this week."

    The company is still working to reach a cost-cutting goal that it did not achieve with its first round of job cuts, Miller said.

    In November, MarchFirst laid off approximately 1,000 employees, or about one-tenth of its work force, as part of an initiative to cut costs and streamline operations. Through the reduction, the company has said it plans to save approximately $100 million annually, beginning this year. At present, the company employs roughly 8,000 people worldwide.

    Miller said she could not provide the total number of layoffs that are occurring this week because some employees are still being notified. "We will probably have some numbers early next week," she added.

    Like others in the once hot Internet consulting market, MarchFirst has had to reduce its work force to save money. The company, which was created from the merger of management consulting firm Whittman-Hart and Web consultancy USWeb/CKS, has been fighting to survive in the midst of a changing market landscape that has many rivals scrambling to stay alive.

    "All we've heard are bad reports from (MarchFirst) in the last six months," said Tom Rodenhauser, an industry analyst who heads Consulting Information Services. "If they have (more layoffs), they're finished. There's nothing left. There hasn't been anything left for a while."

    MarchFirst, whose shares have plummeted from a 52-week high of $56.50 to a low of $1, also has been on a trek to nab additional funding to sustain its business.

    It recently received a $12 million interest-free loan from existing investor Microsoft and a $150 million investment from equity firm Francisco Partners.

    MarchFirst had stated in a recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it needed approximately $50 million in additional financing through the end of 2000 and another $50 million in early 2001 to refinance its existing bank facilities and to meet the company's liquidity needs for the foreseeable future.

    News.com's Stefanie Olsen contributed to this report.