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MetLife Layoffs May Be Severe

Firm May Ax 1,200 Jobs At Travelers After Takeover

March 30, 2005
By DIANE LEVICK, Courant Staff Writer

MetLife Inc. is likely to slash 600 to 1,200 Hartford jobs in its acquisition of Travelers Life & Annuity, striking a blow to the area's economic rebound, sources in the governor's office said Tuesday.

The governor's office and others believe the number will be in the upper end of that range, although the companies aren't disclosing the number of layoffs yet, according to the sources, who spoke on the condition they not be identified.

Hartford-based Travelers has about 1,850 employees in the city and about 2,100 companywide.

Some Travelers employees are being told this week that their jobs will be eliminated, and MetLife says it won't reveal layoff numbers until late next week - after all workers have been told where they stand.

Meanwhile, sources say, Gov. M. Jodi Rell is irked that MetLife has asked whether state financial aid is available for bringing some jobs to Connecticut when the company is eliminating so many and keeping the numbers under wraps.

John Calagna, a spokesman for New York-based MetLife, said his company's representatives met with the state Department of Economic and Community Development at Rell's suggestion earlier this month. He called it a "good initial meeting and discussion" and said MetLife hopes to continue to explore possible financial incentives.

MetLife hopes to close its $11.5 billion acquisition of Travelers from parent Citigroup on July 1. The deal is subject to regulatory approvals, including a ruling by the Connecticut Department of Insurance after a public hearing, which has not been scheduled yet.

In a press release to be issued today, Rell says she is "extremely unhappy" about the upcoming job losses and notes that she met with MetLife chief executive Robert Benmosche March 7, and her staff has met with other company officials.

"But we still do not have a comfort level as to a definitive number of jobs that are in jeopardy, except that the numbers will be significant," Rell says in the release. "I want exact numbers and exact guarantees."

"These are excellent people in good-paying jobs requiring key skills, and their loss could slow the economic progress that the state has made in recent months," Rell says.

A recent report showed Connecticut gained nearly three times more jobs in 2004 than previously estimated.

MetLife won't divulge layoff numbers yet because it is working through its plan and having discussions with employees, and "we want to be respectful of that process," Calagna said.

Some employees will leave at the deal's closing, while others will be asked to stay on for a few months during a transition. MetLife plans to complete the integration of Travelers by Nov. 1, and has said cost-cutting would trim expenses by $150 million.

"We are committed to Connecticut. We are committed to Hartford," Calagna said. "We are committed to making that a place where we want to have a center for MetLife, and we plan on bringing jobs to Hartford from other parts of our business."

MetLife has previously said it expects to bring "hundreds" of jobs to Hartford over one to two years, offsetting some of the lost jobs, but it hasn't been more specific.

The promised jobs will come whether or not the state provides financial assistance, Calagna said. "However, there could be more jobs that could come into the state based on incentives, on top of the hundreds we have committed."

The economic development department's meeting with MetLife on March 8 was "a preliminary meeting to discuss the merger impact and see what, if anything, the state could do to mitigate its effect on Connecticut," department spokesman James Watson said. He declined to comment further "for confidentiality reasons."

Some of the jobs MetLife would bring to Hartford could come from MetLife offices in Boston and Denver, sources say. Calagna said no final decisions have been made on any MetLife location and he declined to comment on specific ones.

Some of the jobs being imported will relate to the kinds of business that Travelers does, but some of the jobs are unrelated, Calagna said.

MetLife has increased its own workforce in Connecticut during the past two years and now has 1,200 employees here. That includes a Glastonbury office, which handles disability insurance claims, and a Rocky Hill office that handles auto and homeowners' claims.

MetLife's long-term care insurance operations are headquartered in Westport.

In a regulatory filing with Connecticut's insurance department, MetLife says "certain operations that will service Travelers Life & Annuity after the completion of the proposed acquisition will be expanded to service other MetLife companies and will be based in Hartford. Additionally, MetLife is considering locating certain other operations in Hartford."

The filing shows premium income is projected to shrink by 52 percent from 2004 to 2006 at The Travelers Insurance Co., a company that includes Travelers Life & Annuity and businesses MetLife isn't buying. The numbers reflect that new sales of certain Travelers products would stop after the acquisition and that other Travelers products would be phased out by the end of 2006.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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