TV Azteca slashes staff

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MEXICO CITY -- TV Azteca announced March 3 it will cut about 400 jobs, or 12% of its entire staff, in a quest to keep the company's operations lean.

TV Azteca said it had identified 400 duplicative administrative and production personnel who were dismissed March 1.

"This payroll reduction is part of TV Azteca's strategy to operate as efficiently as possible," Azteca Chairman and CEO Ricardo Salinas Pliego said in a statement. Azteca hired 1,100 people over the last year, ending 1997 with 3,300 employees. Most of the new hires were in prod uction and sales, to handle greater in-house production and more advertising clients, Azteca said.

Azteca increased original programming from 5,300 hours in 1996 to 8,300 hours in 1997 and is planning for 9,700 hours this year.

With high operating margins, Azteca is well run, says one Mexico City-based analyst. "But they are very cost conscious and have a consist ent program of reviewing costs and efficiencies."

The Azteca announcement could put pressure on rival Televisa, which had already committed last year to cut its costs significantly by 2000, the analyst adds.

Televisa is expected to release its 1997 fourth quarter and year-end results on March 5.

Copyright March 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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