Heinz warns of job cuts in its British operation

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The Independent Online
NEW YORK - HJ Heinz, the American food giant, warned yesterday that it was planning to make cuts in its British workforce of 3,000, writes Larry Black.

But the company, whose main facility in Wigan is Europe's largest food processing plant, refused to disclose how many jobs were involved. A spokesman would say only that negotiations were continuing with union representatives.

Heinz's profits fell sharply last year, dropping to dollars 396m ( pounds 260m) from dollars 638m following a dollars 192m fourth quarter restructuring charge. This was despite a record increase in turnover, with sales for the year ended April up more than 8 per cent to dollars 7.1bn.

In the UK sales of about dollars 800m ( pounds 526m) were up on the previous year and a spokesman said the company planned to export production from the Wigan factory, its lowest-cost operation in Europe.

The results were complicated by a dollars 133m charge to cover medical costs for retired workers in the US. But the company's operating profit was also down sharply at dollars 860m, compared with dollars 1.1bn for the previous 12 months.