Engineering group Cookson to cut 180 jobs

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Engineering group Cookson today confirmed plans to cut nearly 180 UK jobs as part of a cost cutting move that will reduce its global workforce by about 7 per cent.

The UK roles affected are in Scotland, where Cookson is shutting its manufacturing plant at Newmilns in Ayrshire over the next 12 months.

Cookson said it was to cut about 1,250 jobs worldwide, with its operations across Europe and the US also affected.

The firm makes components such as ceramic filters and is particularly exposed to the steel and automotive industries, which have been hit hard by the recession and a slowdown in demand.

The firm is closing six plants worldwide under proposals to shave £40 million a year off its employment cost base.

It said it had already imposed a salary freeze across the group and cut overtime and premium shifts within its manufacturing facilities.

Cookson also launched a rescue cash call to investors to raise around £240 million as it battles against tough trading conditions.

Shares plummeted by more than 40 per cent after news of the rights issue, having already nose-dived in value as the economic downturn has picked up pace.

The group said: "Our markets have been hard hit in recent months, most notably in global steel production, which has seen an unprecedented downturn.

"However, we expect some recovery later this year and we firmly believe that our markets continue to have attractive long-term growth characteristics."

More than 40 per cent of Cookson's trading profit is linked to steel production.

Steel volumes have plunged rapidly since the financial crisis escalated last autumn, down by 14 per cent in October, 20 per cent in November and 24 per cent last month, according to Cookson.

Cookson employs around 1,000 staff in total in the UK across its ceramics plant in Newmilns, as well as operations at Chesterfield and a head office in London, while its recently acquired Foseco business is based in Tamworth.

The group's ceramics business trades under the brand name Vesuvius.

Cookson - founded by Roland Cookson - has a history stretching back to the early 18th century, when it was first involved in jewellery and munitions production.

Its precious metals division still supplies gold, silver and platinum to the jewellery industry in the US, UK, France and Spain.