June 26, 2001 4:25 PM PDT

Metricom sheds 23 percent of staff

Metricom, which designed, builds and operates the Ricochet wireless network, announced Tuesday that it will cut almost a quarter of its work force in an effort to steady its foundering business amid tough times.

The wireless data services company said it will lay off 23 percent of its staff, or about 135 employees, leaving 451 workers worldwide.

Metricom told Wall Street last March that it will run out of cash in August and reported in April a net loss of $186 million for the first quarter compared to a loss of $32 million for the same quarter last year.

"The continued focus on marketing and operating in our existing 15 markets, coupled with a strategic shift away from rapid widespread deployment, has significantly changed our staffing needs," interim Chief Executive Ralph Derrickson said in a statement. "Further, our critical need to conserve cash to continue our operations beyond August has led to this reduction in force."

The San Jose, Calif.-based company spent about $211 million in cash in the first quarter and had cash reserves of $315.8 million.

The company offers its wireless Internet service to consumers who use its Ricochet mobile modem. The new service offers mobile Net access at speeds of 128 kbps (kilobits per second). The company had about 40,900 subscribers at the end of the first quarter compared to 34,000 in the fourth quarter.


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