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AT&T plans to 'adjust' workforce in some areas in 2019

AT&T Inc. appears to be gearing up for a round of layoffs in 2019.

Citing internal documents and an unnamed source, Vice's "Motherboard" reported Jan. 8 that the U.S. telco is planning a "geographic rationalization" that will consolidate certain operations in various AT&T offices around the country. The total number of employees expected to be impacted has yet to be finalized, according to the report.

In an emailed statement, AT&T confirmed it will make some upcoming shifts to its workforce. "We are hiring to meet the needs of the growth areas of our business. In fact, we hired more than 20,000 new employees last year and more than 17,000 the year before. In cases where we do have to adjust our workforce, we take steps to lessen the effect on employees," the company said.

The news comes as AT&T continues to digest its 2018 acquisition of Time Warner Inc. As part of that process, the company has set a goal of strengthening its balance sheet. Specifically, the company plans to cut $18 billion to $20 billion of its debt by the end of 2019. Also, AT&T said it expects to generate $6 billion to $8 billion in cash from other opportunities, including real estate sale-lease backs, sales of noncore assets and working capital initiatives.

AT&T is not the only U.S. telco to trim its workforce. Verizon Communications Inc. reportedly offered voluntary severance packages to about 44,000 employees in September 2018 as part of the carrier's plans to cut $10 billion in costs. All told, about 10,400 employees accepted the voluntary separation offer, Verizon said in December 2018.