Trading trouble mounts at Waterford Wedgwood

Beleaguered Waterford Wedgwood has today warned of reduced sales and profits in advance of its annual financial results to March 31.
Turnover is expected to be down some 4% on the previous year, at 700m Euros, and the company predicts that profit will be “substantially lower than broker expectations”.

The tabletop giant, which does a large proportion of its business in the US, has been hit by high exchange rates and problems in getting product out in time for the Christmas trading period. It says there is also evidence of a consumer slowdown affecting retail sales in many of its key markets, particularly the UK and US.

Anthony Jones, appointed chief financial officer in November, said in today’s statement: “I accepted my position at Waterford Wedgwood because the group has great potential. The group has created a product portfolio which is in high demand, and it is frustrating for management to report to shareholders that thus far sales and profits have not shown the commensurate improvement. There are a number of distinct opportunities to improve shareholder value that should be addressed with urgency.”

Cost-cutting measures include a plan to shed 1,400 jobs across the group. However, apart from confirmation last November that 490 jobs would go at the Waterford Crystal factory in Kilbarry, Ireland there has been no confirmation yet as to where the other losses will come. The group employs 1,500 people in North Staffordshire – 800 of them in Barlaston, where Wedgwood is based, and 700 at office and distribution sites across the county.

In total, Waterford Wedgwood employs 8,000 workers in Ireland, the UK and Germany. It has shed 2,300 jobs since May 2005 and closed plants, including the Tuscan Works in Longton, Staffordshire.

Last year the group suffered losses of £80m.

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