Kidden Peabody & Co.'s public finance employees are bracing for pink slips following PaineWebber Group Inc.'s agreement to buy the struggling firm.

Aside from Kidder's 1,150 highly regarded retail brokers, the outlook appears grim for many of the firm's other 3,850 employees. With the volume of tax-exempt debt issuance down 40% this year from last, the prospects seem particularly gloomy for Kidder's public finance department.

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