3,300 new UK jobs lift gloom

THE GLOOM hanging over the economy was lifted a little yesterday as more than 3,300 jobs were created in information technology, telecoms manufacturing and financial services.

Prudential is to set up a direct banking and assurance business in Derby, creating 1,500 jobs in three years.

Computacenter confirmed an alliance with Microsoft that will provide 1,000 new jobs, 900 of them in the UK.

MCI Worldcom, the US telecoms group, will today announce plans to create 600 UK jobs in the next year as it attempts to take on BT.

Finally, Sonae Industries of Portugal unveiled plans to build a pounds 70m factory on Merseyside to manufacture particleboard, creating 220 direct jobs. Another 700 will be created in related industries, while building the factory itself will provide 800 jobs.

Peter Mandelson, the Trade and Industry Secretary, welcomed the Computacenter and Sonae decisions to invest in the UK.

The Sonae plant will receive pounds 4.85m in government grants. It will be the first particleboard factory built in the UK for 15 years.

Computacenter, the IT systems and services group floated earlier this year, said the 900 jobs would be created at its offices in London, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Birmingham, Bristol and Reading. They are in addition to 625 jobs created earlier in the year.

The 1,500 Prudential jobs will be created over the next three years at a purpose-built call centre which opens for business on Sunday. The direct banking initiative is called Egg.

Some economic bad news emerged, however. The Glasgow-based pumps group, Weir, said it was switching component orders from the UK to suppliers in Brazil and Romania, partly because of the strength of the pound.

The group would not say how much business would be taken away from UK suppliers, but said that the move was expected to yield "substantial" cost savings.

The components involved are castings, electric motors, gear boxes and fabrications.

Sir Ron Garrick, the chief executive of Weir, said that the group would continue to buy from its existing suppliers as long as they could match the prices of suppliers from outside Europe.

The announcement was offset by news of a pounds 14m investment in new manufacturing technology which will safeguard 1,200 Weir jobs in Glasgow, but will not create any new employment.

Pru's new Egg, page 17