BellSouth Cutting Up to 5,000 Jobs

Regional phone company BellSouth Corp. (BLS) said Friday it plans to cut 4,000 to 5,000 jobs as it struggles with a weak economy, tougher competition and regulatory pressures.

The company said it would slash both management and non-management jobs as part of the cuts.

"We face a fiercely competitive marketplace, and we must continue to reduce our cost structure in order to compete," chief executive Duane Ackerman said in a statement. "We also must continue to delthe increasing demands of our customers."

The company said it would take an after-tax charge of $250 million to $300 million as a result of the reduction.

The cuts are the largest yet as BellSouth, which serves nine Southeastern states, struggles with a still-soft economy.

In October, BellSouth slashed 3,000 white-collar jobs. And in December, it eliminated 1,200 technical and clerical jobs throughout the service area. Most of those 4,200 workers were based in Georgia.

In the latest round of cuts, BellSouth said management jobs would be eliminated through "voluntary separation." Non-management jobs will be cut in accordance with the company's agreement with its workers' union.

The announcement came two days after government regulators gave BellSouth the go-ahead to offer long-distance service in Georgia and Louisiana.

Federal approval came only after the telecommunications company resolved regulators' worries that it had done too little to stoke competition in the local phone game.

BellSouth shares slid 61 cents to $32.89 Friday in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.