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Applied Materials Sets Job-Finding Program

The move could cut 2% of the work force.

Applied Materials (AMAT) Chief Executive Mike Splinter has implemented an employee reorganization program that could result in eliminating up to 2% of the equipment company's 12,000-person staff.

Splinter sent a memo to his employees Wednesday telling them "affected employees will have the opportunity to search for internal short-term, part-time or regular full-time positions within a 60-day period or leave the company." The memo stated the program, which he referred to as a "Talent Mobility Program," was implemented to "support our growth strategy and to better align our resources with areas of business growth."

Company spokesman Dave Miller confirmed that Splinter sent the memo, but he said it doesn't represent an attempt by the company to save money.

"Our goal here is not to save money," said Miller. "It's a way for us to take the employees we've trained that have good experience and put them to work elsewhere in the company."

Ultimately, however, he said 120 to 240 people in the company might end up without jobs at Applied Materials.

"This is not reflective of the state of the business," said Miller. "In a company of our size, you constantly have organizational change."

In December, Applied Materials killed a three-year old internal venture capital fund.

Applied Materials is the largest company making equipment used to manufacture semiconductors. The overall equipment industry is expected to be fairly weak this year following a robust year of sales in 2004.

The equipment industry's largest trade group, Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International, announced Monday that it expected global sales of chip equipment to fall by 5% in 2005.

Earlier in the week,



, a maker of testing equipment used by semiconductor manufacturers, set plans to cut 320 workers, or 5% of the company.