600 redundancies from Ionica fallout

600 staff at collapsed Cambridge-based Ionica have been told they will lose their jobs as administrators PricewaterhouseCooopers and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) try to salvage what is left of the bankrupt company.

The final chapter in the tale of the company's downfall closed last week when Ionica's board called in the administrators after deciding that nothing more could be done. Ionica provide fixed telephony services for residential and small business users using a pioneering radio-based network.

Telecoms union the Society of Telecom executives (STE) is today contacting its members at Ionica, according to STE spokesman Leslie Manasseh. "We do have some STE members at Ionica, but not that many. The company did not recognise our Union. However, we aim to look after members who have fallen victim as a consequence of this event."

Manasseh claimed that in such a "volatile industry, there would always be winners and losers".

Ionica was floated on the stock market last July at a value of £660 m. But share trading was suspended at £0.17 last week. Last July, its shares were worth £280 million, but are now believed to be worth almost nothing.

John Matthews, principle consultant at Ovum, blamed the company's collapse on over ambitious forecasts by the management at the time of flotation. Computer problems have been blamed for a heavy downturn in sales, but Matthews claimed that technology failures were being made the fall guy and could not account for Ionica's downfall.

PricewaterhouseCooopers and the DTI this week set up information centres in Cambridge and Birmingham to help redundant staff. Meanwhile, local and national companies are eyeing up former employees and have contacted Ionica with job offers.

An unspecified number of staff be retained to support the company's 61,938 customers. According to Chris Hughes, PricewaterhouseCooopers administrator, only 62 customers have abandoned the company. "We have ensured that customer services have not been affected by our appointment and the reaction from the customers has been extremely supportive, with a number even offering to pay early to assist the company."

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