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IBM is asking an unspecified number of UK employees to accept a voluntary redundancy package.

An IBM spokeswoman confirmed the offer of "voluntary separation", made across IBM's business last week, but was reluctant to be drawn on details. She said that IBM had no plans to make enforced redundancies.

According to our sources, the redundancy package will offer two weeks salary per year of service. IBM wants to shed 500 staff through the offer, we were told.

IBM said no specific figures had been set and that the current voluntary redundancy offer was not substantially different from previous programmes. The job cuts are aimed at "increasing its competitiveness and reducing costs", IBM told us.

Last month, IBM surprised the market with a profit warning that suggested its sales for its first Q1 2002 would be between $18.4bn and $18.6bn, about 6 per cent less than it had led analysts to expect, and 12 per cent lower than in the same period a year ago. It said profit would be hit even harder, with pre-tax income down to between $1.65bn to $1.75bn from $2.49bn a year ago. ®

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