IBM is to make further job cuts in Europe. Just two weeks after announcing plans to cut 600 jobs and close two locations in Germany, the company said it intends to eliminate 538 similar positions and shut five sites in Sweden.

Additionally, as many as 2,000 jobs could face the axe in France, according to French news reports. A spokesman for IBM in Europe, Fred McNeese, confirmed the planned reductions in Sweden and Germany. Yves Ravez, a spokesman for IBM France, said the company is in discussions with unions about "the evolution of IBM in France," but has not announced any cuts.

In Sweden and Germany, IBM plans to cut the jobs of people who provide help desk, application management and other services to IBM customers who have outsourced their IT operations to IBM, McNeese said. Customers should not notice a lapse in service because of the reorganisation, according to McNeese.

IBM is evaluating all of the German and Swedish jobs that it plans to eliminate. While some workers may be redundant, other jobs will move elsewhere, possibly outside of Europe, McNeese said. "An international location is possible, although no final decision has been made," he said.

German IBM employees, protesting last week against the closing of their offices during the CeBit trade show in Hanover, said their jobs would be outsourced. The jobs involve development and hardware support tasks carried out at IBM Hanover and Schweinfurt, Germany, sites, the employees said. Development jobs will likely go to local companies and support tasks to either Hungary or China, they said.

In Sweden, IBM told employees in five cities that they will be laid off. The plan is to close down operations entirely in these locations, IBM said. The company expects negotiations with trade unions and authorities to be completed later this year.

The Swedish cuts could be the result of IBM losing several major contracts in the country. For example, Skandia Insurance decided not to renew its outsourcing deal with IBM, instead choosing Volvo Information Technology for its mainframe operations.

In France, IBM expects to be able to provide more clarity in mid-April, after it finishes its discussions with the unions, Ravez said. He declined to say whether any cuts should be expected. "It is too early to talk about restructuring and any plans," he said.

(Jonnie Wistrand and Karin Myren of Computer Sweden contributed to this report.)