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BT is to axe 3,000 middle managers in the face of falling profits, the giant telco mumbled today. Instead of being up front about the redundancies, the telco buried the announcement in a small paragraph deep in the bowels of BT's Q3 results. Some 49 paragraphs into the statement -- and after it had discussed operating profit and the Year 2000 transition -- an innocuous-looking heading read: "Voluntary redundancy programme". It explained: "As part of the continuing programme of reshaping the group, we are implementing a new voluntary redundancy programme covering approximately 10 per cent of managers, some 3,000 people, who we expect will leave over the next six to nine months. The total cost of this programme is estimated at around £350 million, including the cost of incremental pension benefits." A spokesman for BT said there was nothing unusual in the practice. He said BT has cut its workforce from 250,000 10 year ago, to 125,000 today. The announcement to cut a further 3,000 jobs was part of a well-documented "ongoing process", he said. Investors have reacted nervously to news of today's fall in profits. By mid morning BT's share price had fallen 211p -- more than 17 per cent down -- after the telco said Q3 pre-tax profits slumped 24 per cent to £651 million pounds. BT blamed greater competition for the slide. Yesterday, BT announced it was to invest in a new European business-to-business portal. Called VerticalNet Europe, the portal will be supported by more than $227 million (£141 million) in cash and assets from the three partners, BT, VerticalNet, Inc, and CapitalGroup. The JV is part of BT's strategy to become an "Internet, mobility, and multimedia" company, a spokesman said today. ® See also: BT's witch doctors of spin fail to cast a spell on the UK

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