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News : Irish Last Updated: Apr 24, 2009 - 5:31:05 PM

Waterford Wedgwood's request for State guarantees for loans up to €39 million have been rejected by the Government
By Finfacts Team
May 21, 2008 - 5:56:20 AM

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Waterford Wedgwood's request for State guarantees over loans worth up to €39 million has been rejected by the Government on fears of creating a precedent for other firms facing financial difficulty.

The Government has however signalled that it is prepared to support the loss-making company in any other way that it could.

The luxury goods manufacturer Waterford Wedgwood is reported to be examining a number of options for its crystal business but the likelihood of maintaining a manufacturing plant in Ireland is doubtful. The company's factory at Kilbarry, Co Waterford, is currently eliminating 490 jobs this year and the medium term prospects of the remaining 550 workers, is bleak.

Waterford Crystal announced plans last week to close its plant in Waterford for three weeks over the next two months.

Waterford Wedgwood had net debts of €473.4 million in September 2007 and its principal shareholders Sir Anthony O'Reilly and his brother-in-law Peter Goulandris, have invested €300 million in the group in recent years.

In the two years to March 31st 2007, the company lost €260 million and it announced last November that it was cutting 490 jobs at the crystal-manufacturing plant.

Years before investing in Waterford Crystal in the late 1980's, O'Reilly often spoke about the need for Ireland to create global brands. However, prosperity in the interval, has been provided by the big names of American business. At the consumer level, in recent decades, Ryanair is the only significant international brand that has been spawned in Ireland.

Waterford Crystal had about 3,200 staff in Waterford in the late 1980s.

Glass making in Waterford dates from 1783 and in 1947, Czech immigrant Charles Bacik, grandfather of Irish Senator Ivana Bacik, opened a glass works in the city because of the reputation of the original glassware. In the early 1950s, the operation was acquired by the Irish Glass Bottle company, which was controlled by the McGrath family who also operated the Irish Sweepstakes.

Waterford Wedgwoodrecently claimed that Government assistance would be akin to the public bailouts of Northern Rock in Britain, Bear Stearns in the US and the rescue in the 1980s of Insurance Corporation of Ireland.

John Foley, chief of the Waterford Crystal unit, said in 2007  that the group employs 1,300 staff in Indonesia for the same wage cost as 90 staff in Britain, itself a cheaper labour market than Ireland.

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