Apple axed 260 positions worldwide in the first three months of 2003 as part of the restructuring of its PowerSchool division and closure of its Singapore manufacturing plant.

The figures are contained in the company's Form 10Q filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, which Apple published yesterday. It states the restructuring also included: "The termination of various sales and marketing activities in the United States and Europe," the filing said.

It explains: "During the first quarter 2003, Apple's management approved and initiated restructuring actions with a total cost of $24 million." 197 of the 260 positions had been eliminated by the end of the first quarter, Apple said.

The closure of its Singapore factory cost Apple $1.8 million in severance costs and $6.7 in writing off manufacturing fixed assets. Severance pay for lay-offs in the company's PowerSchool division cost $550,000.

"Termination of sales and marketing activities and employees, principally in the US and Europe, resulted in severance costs of $2.8 million," the report reveals.

In the last quarter 2002, Apple cut an additional 180 positions in its PowerSchool division and an additional 425 jobs went in operations, information systems and administrative functions during 2002's first quarter.

However, Apple's overall payroll continues to grow, driven partially by its continued rolling out of retail stores across the US. Apple has 53 such stores open now, with more planned.

The company's employee roster appears likely to continue to grow. Last week, Apple's vice president and general manager of Europe, Middle East and Africa told the Sunday Business newspaper of Apple's plans to open retail outlets across Europe within 6 to 18 months.

As well as expanding its retail presence, Apple is also focused on research and development, as the company strives to "innovate its way through recession".

The company's research and development (R&D) spend increased 7 per cent - by $8 million to $121 million - in the first quarter 2003. Headcount grew 9 per cent in the R&D division, "to support expanded r&d activities", the company said.