Layoffs/8"/dt1st/mark2nd

By WADE DANIELS

Staff Reporter

The Simi Valley office of Schlumberger Test & Transactions, a San Jose-based maker of electronic testing equipment, is laying off 78 of 419 employees due to a glut of computer memory chips in Asia, which in turn has weakened demand for the company's testing equipment.

"The problems in Asia have had a swift and hard effect on us," said Beverley Bird, a Schlumberger spokeswoman. "We were on a growth path and then the economic problems hit. People became more careful of what they buy over there."

John Rooney, executive director of the Valley Economic Development Corp., a non-profit business center, said the layoffs add to a generally nervous climate locally over how global economic troubles could impact the L.A. economy.

"There's a lot of talk, and the consensus is that there is going to be a slowdown all around," he said. "Companies that export to Asia are already feeling the pinch."

Schlumberger Test & Transactions, better known as Schlumberger T & T;, makes automated testing equipment for high-tech goods like chips. The unit is laying off 3 percent of its 7,700 employees around the world.

Bird did not provide specifics about sales declines overseas for the T & T; unit, but said that demand for electronic testing equipment is expected to improve in the second half of next year, when the company could refill the positions.

The stock of the unit's parent, New York-based oil-field services provider Schlumberger Ltd., has declined to around $54 in early October from about $90 last November.

Jack Kyser, chief economist of the Economic Development Corp. of Los Angeles County, said it's hard to predict the severity of the ripple effect from economic problems abroad.

"The key to this thing and how other businesses will fare is how long (economic crises abroad) will go on," he said. "We're getting a consensus that it will be about five years until favorable conditions return."

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