Am Ex to Cut Up to 6,500 More Jobs

Financial services company American Express Co. said on Wednesday it would cut up to 6,500 more jobs and take up to another $280 million in pre-tax charges because the Sept. 11 attacks and the weak economy have stopped people from spending and traveling.

American Express' latest round of layoffs is in addition to 7,700 job cuts announced over the past year. The total number of jobs eliminated -- 13,200 to 14,200 -- represents about 15 percent of the work force from the beginning of 2001.

The New York-based firm, which like other Wall Street firms is fighting slack profits in a sluggish economy, also said fourth-quarter earnings, excluding the charges, would range from 34 to 36 cents per share, at the low end of the range of analysts' estimates and sharply lower than a year earlier.

``Travel is weak and likely will stay weak for quite a while,'' Moshe Orenbush, an analyst at CS First Boston, said. ''American Express is not taking the bulk of the expense savings to the bottom line. And credit is worsening, which will be a further drag on earnings in 2002.... Consensus estimates are going to come down.''

Analysts now expect American Express to earn 35 to 45 cents per share in the quarter, with a mean estimate of 40 cents per share, according to research firm Thomson Financial/First Call. It earned 50 cents a share a year earlier.

Profits are shrinking at American Express and other financial firms because Sept. 11 attacks on the United States sparked fear and stopped people from traveling and spending. American Express makes money from assisting companies with travel plans and issuing corporate charge cards.

The stock market, already reeling from the collapse of the Internet industry, fell further after Sept. 11, denting U.S. banks' and brokerages' investment portfolios and fees garnered from selling mutual funds, stocks and bonds.

``The environment since Sept. 11 has underscored the need for us to create greater flexibility in our cost structure so we can be more adaptable to a period of economic uncertainty,'' American Express Chairman and Chief Executive Kenneth Chenault said in a statement.

The steps are expected to save about another $230 million to $260 million next year, and yield annualized savings of about $290 million to $315 million pre-tax in 2003, the company said.

American Express shares were down 94 cents, or nearly 3 percent, to $33.32 on the New York Stock Exchange after sliding as low as $1.51 in pre-market trading Wednesday on the Instinet electronic brokerage system. American Express is one of the 30 stocks making up the benchmark Dow Jones Industrial Average.

At its travel related services arm, billed business volumes are down from last year, but have shown a stronger-than- expected rebound from the latter part of September, the company said. Compared to year-ago levels, billings were down about 14 percent in September, about 10 percent in October and about 6 percent in November.

Travel sales for October fell about 46 percent from year-ago levels. These sales also were down about 38 percent in November.

At the company's Minneapolis-based American Express Financial Advisors unit, sales also deteriorated in September, and remained weak in October and November, the firm said.