Layoffs mount at Hertz, AMD, Pfizer; Circuit City liquidates

Layoff announcements mounted Friday as thousands of job cuts at Hertz, AMD, Wellpoint and Pfizer came on the heels of news that Circuit City Stores cctyq will liquidate the company, laying off 30,000 U.S. employees.

Circuit City said it reached an agreement with liquidators to sell the merchandise in its 567 U.S. stores after failing to find a buyer or refinancing. Read the press release.

The nation's second-biggest consumer electronics retailer says it will begin close-out sales Saturday. Its Canadian unit is still negotiating for a possible takeover.

Circuit City filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in November. It conducted negotiations with potential bidders to sell the company, but told the court last week it may need to liquidate if no deal was reached. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Huennekens gave the company permission to liquidate in that case.

In May, it opened its books to Blockbuster bbi. The Dallas-based movie-rental chain made a takeover bid of more than $1 billion with plans to create a 9,300-store chain to sell electronic gadgets and rent movies and games. Blockbuster withdrew the bid in July because of market conditions.

Circuit City, which said it had $3.4 billion in assets and $2.32 billion in liabilities as of Aug. 31, said in its initial filings that it planned to emerge from court protection in the first half this year.

Under court protection, Circuit City has broken 150 leases at locations where it no longer operates stores. The company already closed 155 stores in the U.S. in November and December.

Elsewhere Friday:

• Rental car company Hertz Global Holdingshtz said it will eliminate more than 4,000 jobs worldwide as it further cuts costs amid slowing demand. Read the press release.

The company expects to save $150 million to $170 million this year and take a related fourth-quarter charge of $20 million to $25 million.

Hertz already has trimmed its work force by 22% in the last two years. The new reductions will bring staffing to 32% below August 2006 levels. According to CapitalIQ, the company currently has about 29,350 workers in total, who operate about 8,100 locations in 144 countries.

The company said the latest round of eliminations, which will take place in its fiscal 2008 fourth quarter and first quarter of 2009, will come in its car and equipment rental operations as well as corporate and support areas. The reductions will occur across all regions.

Chairman and Chief Executive Mark P. Frissora said in a statement that Hertz is still committed to its global airport and off-airport car rental and equipment rental businesses and will add the "necessary resources" when operating conditions get better.

•Advanced Micro Devicesamd said it plans to cut 1,100 jobs, 9% of its global staff, and slash the remaining employees' pay as the chipmaker hopes its third round of layoffs in a year can help it get through a brutal market for computer sales.

The company, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., said Friday that 900 workers will have their jobs cut. The rest of the reductions are coming from attrition and the previously announced sale of a business unit.

The company has 15,000 workers currently, but it is spinning off its manufacturing operations, which have 3,000 employees who are not affected by Friday's announcement. So AMD's cut of 1,100 jobs amounts to 9% of the remaining 12,000 workers.

• Health insurer WellPointwlp said Friday that it will cut about 1,500 jobs. The company, based in Indianapolis, will eliminate about 3.5% of its staff, which currently totals more than 42,000. The cuts include 900 unfilled positions and 600 employees. Read the press release.

WellPoint has employees in 46 states, and the cuts will be felt in 25, a spokesman said.

• Published reports said drug giant Pfizerpfeplans to lay off nearly a third of its 8,000 salespeople.

Bloomberg News and the Wall Street Journal say Pfizer will cut as many as 2,400 sales representatives.

Pfizer, the world's No. 1 drugmaker by revenue, declined to comment on the reports, which come the same week as it confirmed it is cutting the jobs of up to 800 scientists and other research staff.

The latest sales division cuts would follow elimination of roughly 2,000 sales jobs under a restructuring that began two years ago and resulted in about 14,600 jobs being slashed.

Pfizer has been working to lower costs ahead of generic competition expected in late 2011 for its blockbuster cholesterol drug Lipitor, which brings in nearly $13 billion a year. Competition is likely to cut sales drastically.

The company is widely expected to make an official announcement about layoffs when it reports on its 2008 fourth-quarter and full-year financial results, on Jan. 28.