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United splits again

THE United Group, which has suffered in the hands of its shareholders over the past year, has announced a further restructuring of the company with three new divisions being created from the scraps.

But the changes are expected to precede another round of cutbacks at the Kwinana-based engineering and construction company, as well as a shift of corporate headquarters to Sydney.

The three new divisions are United Goninan, United KG formed from Kilpatrick Green and United Construction, and United Gooder, which forms past of the New Zealand arm of the group.

United CEO Richard Leupen held meetings with the group's 3,500 staff around Australia early this week before making the announcement public.

Mr Leupen joined the group in September, replacing Dennis O'Neill who was plagued with bad company results.

He made it clear to the staff that the company would have to work together rather than compete as separate entities.

One source said it was now up to the managers to ensure that everyone was acting as one company.

It is understood staff were told the changes were motivated by a lack of confidence from shareholders.

Confidence among staff at United has also been lacking following a year of cutbacks.

Rumours circulating at the Kwinana headquarters suggest that a further 25 per cent of management could be axed following the internal restructure.

"It's going to happen, it's got to happen and I believe it's in the hands of United Construction managing director Simon High to oversee the staff cuts," the source said.

The staff meeting was described as lacklustre.

"There were no real questions from anyone, no-one wanted to stick their neck out I think, in case it got chopped off," another source said.

"It's a good thing... the point is the company has gone full circle from being one company to splitting up then realising that it has not been such a good thing and going back to one company again. A lot of people believe that it is a good thing but are unsure of how the aim will be achieved."

According to United general manager of construction Tony Iannelo, the managers were going to have a strategic directions meeting next week to discuss their future roles within the company.

"Everyone I've spoken to is seeing this as we have seen the light," Mr Iannelo said.

"I think everyone believes it's a very positive thing but it should have been done a lot sooner,"

"The company has gone through a lot of various integrations and various changes and I guess this is one more that everybody sees as a positive."

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