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Allstate Closing Orange Regional Office

Insurance: 600 jobs, three other facilities affected by shift that a spokesman calls 'operational, rather than financial.'

    Allstate Corp., the second-largest insurer of U.S. cars and homes, will eliminate four regional offices, including one in Orange, in a move to streamline its sales operations and cut costs.
     The insurer said it's paring the number of field offices to 13 from 17. About 150 people work in each of the offices, said Allstate spokesman Peter Debreceny.
     "About 600 people will be affected in one way or another, but that doesn't mean we will be cutting 600 jobs," he said, adding that the main reasons for the shift are "operational, rather than financial."
     Allstate is the second insurance company in the last week to announce plans to close an office in Orange County.
     On Friday, Farmers Insurance Group said it will close its Santa Ana-based administrative office and relocate about 180 employees to Simi Valley and other Farmers offices in a move to cut costs. The building, at 2800 Farmers Drive, will be sold.
     Allstate said it also is closing regional offices in Farmington, Conn.; Hudson, Ohio; and Kansas City, Kan.
     Regional offices provide sales, underwriting and financial administration services for Allstate's agents. Executives overseeing the offices will have greater "accountability" as a result of the overhaul, Debreceny said.
     The regional office restructuring is expected to be followed by other changes to be determined by a review of core businesses. Allstate announced the review late last month, when it warned earnings will miss estimates because of price competition, Hurricane Floyd and other losses.
     Steeper job cuts and other cost-saving steps are likely to be among the results of Allstate's internal review, analysts said. Allstate said the review will be completed by year-end.
     "They have to shake things up," said Warburg Dillon Read LLC's Michael A. Lewis. "Anything could probably help the stock, at this point."
     Shares of the company, based near Chicago in Northbrook, Ill., dropped 50 cents to $23.75.


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