Losses soar at troubled Waterford

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The Independent Online
WATERFORD Wedgwood, the troubled Irish luxury goods group, saw pre-tax losses almost treble to Ir pounds 5.8m (pounds 5.6m) in the six months to 30 June.

Most of the deficit came from the Waterford crystal division, where management announced a radical plan to cut costs and reduce the workforce a fortnight ago.

Waterford made an operating loss of Ir pounds 3.2m (Ir pounds 2.1m), despite a 15 per cent increase in sales. The company said the higher turnover reflected a recovery in the Irish tourist market and the successful introduction of the lower-priced 'Marquis' crystal range into the United States.

The introduction of Marquis, which is made in Eastern Europe, has been the focus of unrest among unions at Waterford, which have accused the management of trying to move production away from its historic base.

On 20 August, the company proposed a restructuring package for Waterford, involving 500 redundancies from the 1,900-strong workforce and across-the-board pay cuts.

Richard Barnes, chief financial officer, said the management was still explaining the details to the workers, and negotiations would begin in about 10 days. 'There is no deadline, although we would hope to have made considerable progress before the year-end.'

The Wedgwood fine china division saw operating profits halve to Ir pounds 1.5m, on sales down 5 per cent at Ir pounds 99.2m. There is no interim dividend.