APV to shut site with loss of 233 jobs

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The Independent Online
APV, the food and drink process plant manufacturer, is closing its loss-making beer kegging equipment site in Rochester, Kent, in the new year. Only a small number of the 233 employed at the factory will be offered jobs elsewhere in the company.

The decision, which prompted APV shares to fall 3p to 104p, reflects static beer demand in the UK, US and Australia - the company's principal markets. Within this flat market, there is also a continuing move away from on-trade to off-trade beer sales.

Off-trade sales, almost entirely in cans and bottles, are forecast to rise from 19 per cent to 28 per cent of the UK beer market by the end of the decade. Most brewery observers predict that by then there will be 10,000 to 15,000 fewer pubs in the UK, and thus demand for kegged beer sold at the bar will be less.

Haydn Sayce, director of the liquid foods division of APV Baker, said the decision to cease production at Rochester was taken after long deliberation and with regret.

'In recent years, strong efforts have been made by both the management and staff to improve the financial viablility of this business.'

APV plans to maintain after-sales service on kegging plant already sold or ordered and will continue to supply other brewery products.

The company is in the midst of a refocusing exercise. On Tuesday, it sold Vent-Axia, its fans and hand drier subsidiary, to Smiths Industries for pounds 56m.