Rogers cuts 900 jobs

Rogers Communications says it is laying off 900 people across Canada, mostly in executive and management positions.

Rivals expected to pare workforces as well

Rogers Communications announced Thursday it is laying off 900 employees across Canada.

Canada's biggest cellphone and cable TV company, Rogers Communications, is cutting about three per cent of its workforce. ((Matt Rourke/Associated Press))

Terrie Tweddle, vice-president of corporate communications at Rogers, told CBC News the job losses "represent a very small percentage of our workforce" and that "the primary focus of the job losses are actually at the executive and management levels."

Rogers said in October it was moving to streamline operations to contend with rivals. Tweddle said the layoffs represent three per cent of the company's workforce of 30,000 across the country.

Independent technology analyst Carmi Levy told CBC News he was "not at all" surprised by the layoffs, given that investors wanted costs cut.

Predicts rivals will cut jobs, too

"Rogers, in particular, as the dominant player, has been under some significant pressure over the last year," Levy said. He predicted rivals Telus and Bell would also cut staff, especially as competition picks up as new entrants come into the industry in 2010 after an auction of new wireless spectrum.

"What was considered sufficiently lean a year ago or two years ago is no longer lean enough," he said.

He said Rogers would have to be careful about making any future cuts.

Customer impact attenuated

"Because most of these layoffs are focused mostly on middle and upper management, you're probably not going to notice a whole lot in the short term, but clearly, if this is a precursor to subsequent waves of cutbacks, customer service could potentially be affected in the long run."

Tweddle said the company would continue to hire people, especially in customer service.

The company owns Canada's largest wireless phone service, as well as Rogers Cable, numerous publications and broadcast outlets, and the Toronto Blue Jays. In September, it announced plans to further integrate its cable and wireless businesses to better respond to its customers.

The job cuts come as Rogers faces heated competition from established rivals Bell and Telus and new entrants who plan to offer cheaper wireless airtime packages.

Cogeco stake rises

Also on Thursday, Rogers said it spent $163 million to increase its stake in Montreal-based Cogeco Inc. and its cable television subsidiary, Cogeco Cable Inc.

Rogers, which already had an equity interest in both companies, purchased 3.2 million shares of Cogeco Cable at $36.43 a share. The move gives Rogers a 20 per cent ownership share in the Quebec cable company.

In addition, Rogers bought 1.6 million shares in Cogeco Inc. at $28.61 apiece to up its equity stake in the parent company to 29.9 per cent.

Rogers said the purchases were made "for investment purposes," not in the hope of taking over the companies. But Rogers also said it might buy more Cogeco shares.

Like Rogers, Cogeco is controlled by its founding family through multiple voting shares.

With files from The Canadian Press