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B of A Conference: At Qwest, More Revenue Equals Fewer Layoffs

The company says it's possible that it won't cut 11,000 workers, but only if revenue hits some aggressive targets.

SAN FRANCISCO -- The layoffs at

Qwest Communications

(Q)

may not be as big as originally anticipated -- if the company can generate more revenue.

Joe Nacchio, Qwest's president, told investors at the

Banc of America Securities Investment Conference

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here Tuesday that the 11,000 employees the company expects to cut this year and next is a moving target. The ultimate number is tied to revenue and is based on a revenue-per-employee formula. Simply put, the more revenue the company produces, the fewer employees it'll cut. Nacchio didn't say whether the inverse was true. But he added that the company's revenue target is so ambitious that it'll probably have to stick with the 11,000 figure.

Qwest

made headlines earlier this month after closing its $36 billion purchase of

US West

by announcing plans to cut 16% of its workforce -- 4,500 employees this year and 6,500 employees next year -- the steepest cuts in the telecommunications industry since AT&T's 15,000 employee layoff in the late 1990s.

Nacchio, a former AT&T executive, hasn't hidden his contempt for the old-line telcos, with their records of poor service and utility-like business models. Nacchio reportedly was so anxious to have the US West logo removed from the company's Denver home office building that he threatened to fire the team in charge of the removal if it wasn't off the building by a specific time.

Nearly all the job cuts will come from the US West ranks. "Because you wear a clown suit doesn't mean you work for the circus," said Nacchio. "We'll take off the suits and get down to work, then we'll send out the clowns."