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SAN FRANCISCO-Robertson Stephens, a US investment bank specializing exclusively in high tech, communications and life sciences, plans to lay off half its staff in an effort to cut costs and to prepare for a potential management buyout.

Earlier this year, Robertson Stephens gave its managing directors two options: Either participate in the proposed buyout or leave. This week, the firm says it plans to layoff half of its staff.

The San Francisco-based firm, which is owned by FleetBoston Financial, was put up for public auction in May. The company was bought by BankBoston, but dropped its name after its parent merged to form FleetBoston Financial. The purchase price was $800 million.

Now FleetBoston is selling Robertson Stephens and analysts say that it may only get about $300-400 million for the company. Analysts have suggested that such an employee buyout might be the best bet, as employees own about 23 percent of the firm. It could also be beneficial in winning back the confidence of clients and restoring the company’s reputation.

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