Siemens fails to find rescuer

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The Independent Online
SIEMENS will begin running down its pounds 1bn semi-conductor plant on Tyneside this week, with the loss of 1,100 jobs, after failing to find a rescuer for the factory.

A six-week search for a buyer, headed by a taskforce set up by Peter Mandelson, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, has drawn a blank.

Confirmation that the plant is to close will be a bitter blow for the north-east following the decision by Fujitsu to close another microchip plant in the region. A Siemens spokesman said that despite intense efforts to save the plant, there was little sign of a rescue deal. Workers at the state- of-the-art factory, opened only a year ago by the Queen, will be given the news on Tuesday or Wednesday.

The closure of the plant will trigger the repayment of some of the pounds 50m worth of government grants provided to build the plant. Siemens said that the regional selective assistance it received would be repaid but some other backing, such as training and infrastructure support, may not be recoverable.

When Siemens announced the closure at the end of July, Mr Mandelson said that "every effort" would be made to find a buyer. "Siemens may be leaving north Tyneside but the plant isn't and we must do everything we can to find an alternative owner for it," he said.

The DTI task force was led by Andrew Fraser, the head of the Invest in Britain Bureau, and Lou Aviss, the head of personnel at the Siemens plant. In the past few weeks, accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers was brought in to help with the search for a buyer.