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Unisys' latest cost-cutting caps rough 2008

The Blue Bell information technology company has delayed moving its headquarters, got bumped from the S&P 500, changed CEOs and now will cut 1,300 jobs.

The 1,300 job cuts announced by Unisys Corp. Monday night might be called by some a "Christmas surprise."

Except, when it comes to Unisys, the days before Christmas generally bring some type of news.

Last year, it was the welcome announcement that the Blue Bell information technology company intended to move its headquarters and 225 jobs into Center City.

That would prove to be a high point for Unisys as nothing went as planned in 2008. The Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustment shot down its effort to affix its corporate logo to Two Liberty Place. Unisys was pressured by an activist hedge fund to improve performance. It changed CEOs. And its market value fell so low, its stock got dropped from the Standard & Poor's 500 index.

Along the way, Unisys lost money each quarter. (The $72 million loss for the first nine months is an improvement on the $93 million loss for the same period of 2007.)

Did I mention that J. Edward Coleman, who was named CEO Oct. 7, is a turnaround expert?

Now, the ongoing credit crisis and the 13-month-long recession have wrecked many a solid business plan.

But Unisys is a serial restructurer in the way that some people are constantly dieting. Previous CEO Joseph W. McGrath spent much of his three-year tenure trimming expenses and cutting 7,400 jobs. He did try to orchestrate the relocation to burnish its image.

However, since the summer, speculation has grown that Unisys will drop those plans. Has it? Spokesman Jim Kerr would say only that the company is "looking at its options." One of them involves subleasing the 90,000 square feet in Two Liberty it now controls.

But when a company says it want to reduce its annual cost structure by more than $225 million, opening a new headquarters in one of Philadelphia's trophy buildings would seem to be the last thing it wants to do.

Plus, such a move might hurt morale among Unisys employees, many of whom will have to make do with no salary increase in 2009 as well as the suspension of matching contributions to their 401(k) plan.