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Axe set to fall on jobs at Winterthur

Winterthur was taken over by AXA in June

(Keystone)

The Winterthur insurance company says that 350 jobs could be cut in Switzerland after its takeover earlier this year by AXA, France's largest insurer.

It is anticipated that 250 posts will be slashed at Winterthur's head office north of Zurich, the insurer announced on Thursday.

Wintherthur, which was previously part of the Credit Suisse Group, was sold to AXA in June this year for SFr12.3 billion ($9.96 billion) in cash.

"As a result of the sale, it is anticipated that around 350 jobs reductions may become necessary in Switzerland following the completion [of the sale]," Winterthur said in a statement.

The company currently employs 5,800 people in Switzerland. The projected cuts at the head office, which employs 1,300 people, would hit one in five employees.

Winterthur said it would contact affected employees as well as employee and labour representatives before any final decisions were taken.

The company had not ruled out job cuts when the sale was announced in June.

New CEO

The AXA group has named Philippe Egger as Wintherthur's new CEO of its operations in Switzerland, the statement said. He replaces Leonhard Fischer.

AXA has also shaken-up operations and named several new executives to take charge in other countries across Europe, it was announced.

The French giant's acquisition of Wintherthur has now received the necessary anti-trust approval from the United States, Swiss and European Union authorities, said Winterthur.

Approval and notification processes with the insurance regulatory authorities have now been initiated. The new organisation will take effect after the completion of the sale, which his expected at the end of 2006, added the company.

"The integration planning between AXA and Winterthur is on track," said Fischer.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Winterthur was founded in 1875 in the town of the same name as an accident insurance company.

During the year of its birth, it expanded abroad to Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Austria-Hungary, amongst others.

In 1923 its life insurance business began. In 1936 it opened its first office in New York in the United States; a year later it had expanded to 29 other states.

Towards the end of the 20th century, the company grew large enough to become a global insurance heavyweight and number two in Switzerland.

In the 1990s the firm's fortunes took a downturn, after a failed cooperation with UBS. Credit Suisse acquired it in 1997.

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