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Viant layoffs the latest amid consulting crunch

The Net consulting company becomes the fourth in the industry to announce layoffs this week as it says it plans to cut costs by laying off nearly 20 percent of its work force.

Internet consulting company Viant on Thursday announced plans to lay off nearly 20 percent of its work force and close its Dallas office to reduce costs and shift its focus.

Layoffs at Viant mark the fourth round of job cuts to hit an Internet consulting company this week alone. Other players including Scient, Xpedior and Lante have also laid off employees this week as part of restructuring plans aimed at reducing costs.

As part of the plan, Boston-based Viant will trim its work force by about 125 employees, 99 of which are consultants. The layoffs at the company amount to about 17 percent of its worldwide staff.

"We worked as hard as we could to forestall the restructuring," said Anna Svaldi, a company spokeswoman. And while the company in recent months managed to substantially cut some expenses and land some large contracts, it wasn?t enough, said Svaldi.

"We have to depend on the market...and, unfortunately, the market has not been cooperating," she added.

A number of players in the Internet consulting sector have been tugging through rough waters. Companies like Scient and iXL Enterprises have been bruised by an overall market shift fueled by the downturn of spending from cash-strapped dot-coms, which were once on these companies' client A-list.

Viant said it will focus on capturing consulting engagements in targeted industries including media and entertainment, financial services, energy, consumer goods, retail, and technology. Viant said it hopes the new plan will better adjust its professional expertise to client needs.

The company said it will take a charge of approximately $5 million to $7 million in the fourth quarter as a result of the restructuring. The charge will come primarily from severance packages and related expenses from cutbacks and other charges related to the closing of its office in Dallas.

The company said it expects to realize cost savings of approximately $18 million in 2001.