Kvaerner axes 3,000 workers

SOME OF the 6,000 UK employees of Kvaerner, the Anglo-Norwegian engineering giant, can expect to lose their jobs following the announcement yesterday of world-wide cutbacks.

The decision to reduce the company's workforce by 3,000 over the next six months follows over-expansion in its oil and gas divisions, which got into trouble because of falling energy prices.

The move is part of a widescale restructuring, which led to the sale this summer to GEC Marconi of the company's ship-building operation at Govan on Clydeside. Kvaerner has already indicated it wants to halve its capacity for rig-building and concentrate more on the increasingly profitable technology side of the division which makes seabed measuring equipment, communications systems and other products.

Kvaerner, which has two rig-building yards in Methil, Fife and in Port Clarence on Teesside, said it was too early to say where the job losses would be. However, the threat seems least in Methil, which has an order book full until the middle of next year and has been recruiting staff.

Port Clarence's future has been causing concern because it currently only has work until about early October and redundancy talks are under way. One of two plants in Norway is also likely to close.

So far this year Kvaerner has off-loaded pounds 335m worth of businesses. It has a further 11 shipyards to sell before it makes its total exit from shipbuilding.

The company reported a pre-tax loss for the six months to 30 June of 4.81bn crowns (pounds 382m) against a profit of 266m crowns the previous year.

Yesterday's announcement was, however, offset by news that more than 1,500 new jobs are expected to be created in Scotland's biotechnology sector over the next six years.

Quintiles Scotland, a US-based pharmaceutical products company, plans to take on 1,562 staff. It employs about 1,000 in Bathgate, Livingston and Riccarton, near Edinburgh.