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WebTop has sacked 60 per cent of its workforce in a cost-cutting blitz at the search engine outfit.

More than 20 of the 40 staff were told of the redundancies this morning amid fears about the future of the enterprise.

WebTop CEO, Andy Mitchell,the former head of AltaVista UK, was not one of those made redundant.

El Reg understands that the cuts mean that WebTop - which is owned by Bright Station - has effectively been stripped to the bone.

Those left will concentrate on business development. The entire sales team, which was only hired six weeks ago, has been put on a week's notice. Annual bonuses, which are due to be paid soon, are unlikely to be honoured.

In a short statement, Bright Station said: "We have carried out a review of the staffing requirements at WebTop based on present market conditions.

"Regrettably we have decided to reduce total staff numbers employed in this subsidiary business.

"Those staff who are not being re-employed within the Group will be provided with redundancy packages and every assistance in finding new positions.

"WebTop, with its unique web searching technology, remains an important part of our Group," she said.

Yesterday, Bright Station issued an operating loss of £16.8 million for 2000 but made no mention of today's job losses.

Last month, employees at WebTop sent flowers to Mitchell after he failed to win the Internet Villain Award at Britain's Internet "Oscars". That's some way to pay back their generosity. ®

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