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Monday, 21 January, 2002, 12:56 GMT
Consignia names new chairman
A Royal Mail train
The Royal Mail faces increased competition
Consignia, the re-named Post Office, has appointed former Asda chief executive Allan Leighton as its interim chairman.

Mr Leighton, who was already a non-executive director of the company, will stay in the job until a permanent chairman is appointed later in the year.


This arrangement will ensure that there is no pause in the pace of change

Allan Leighton
He is expected to oversee the first phase of a streamlining operation designed to prepare Consignia for increased competition.

"With our people, we have much to achieve quickly. This arrangement will ensure that there is no pause in the pace of change," Mr Leighton said.

Consignia chief executive John Roberts will continue to run the company on a day-to-day basis.

Closure reports denied

Earlier the company denied reports over the weekend that it planned to shut half of its 17,500 UK post offices.

"There is no doubt the network will become smaller, but there are no plans for immediate closures on anywhere near the scale mentioned," a Consignia spokeswoman said.

Consignia, burdened by the hefty cost of maintaining a national network of post offices, has come under heavy pressure as the market for postal services becomes increasingly liberalised.

It has also been hit by declining growth rates in the volume of mail in line with the rise in electronic communication.

The company made a record 281m loss for the six months to October.

Retrenchment

Last year, it closed 500 post offices and said it may have to axe as many as 30,000 jobs - around 15% of its workforce - as part of a plan to reduce costs by 1.2bn by April 2003.

Consignia managers later backtracked in the face of strike threats from the powerful Communication Workers' Union.

Consignia admits that its 40-year monopoly status has hindered its efficiency, but claims that its statutory service obligations puts it at a disadvantage to new market entrants such as Hays and Business Post Group.

The company was partly privatised in March, but has not been given complete commercial freedom.

The Post Office made money for 40 years, and has reported profits of about 350m every year except for the last two years.

New chairman

Mr Leighton started his career with confectionery maker Mars, and became marketing director of UK supermarket chain Asda in 1991.

He was appointed chief executive of Asda in 1997, and helped to tranform it from a 500m company to one which was sold to US retail giant Wal Mart for 6.2bn.

Mr Leighton currenly chairs housebuilding company Wilson Connolly as well as internet travel shop Lastminute.com

He also runs his own website, Going-plural.com, which offers tips and advice to budding entrepreneurs.

John Roberts joined the Post Office in 1967, and became its chief executive in 1995.

See also:

21 Jan 02 | Business
The world's busiest businessman?
14 Dec 01 | Business
Post strike threat withdrawn
03 Oct 01 | Business
Consignia cuts 1bn to stem 'crisis'
13 Jul 01 | Business
Consignia to axe 2,100 jobs
26 Jun 01 | Business
Post office jobs warning
31 May 01 | Business
Consignia considers outsourcing deal
09 Jan 01 | Business
UK Post Office name change
12 Dec 01 | Business
Consignia backpedals on job cuts
26 Nov 01 | Business
UK post operator loses 1.5m a day
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