Ball bearing giant bucks French resistance

Swedish firm SKF, the world's largest manufacturer of ball bearings, has shrugged off a local politician's vocal press criticism and is pushing ahead with plans to shut down a factory in France.

SKF said on Tuesday see through the closure despite Philippe de Villiers, the president of the General Council of the Vendee region, taking out a full-page advertisement in Britain’s Financial Times to criticise the move.

De Villiers, the president of the General Council of the Vendee region, hit out at SKF chief executive Tom Johnstone, slamming the decision to close the factory in the town of Fontenay-le-Comte “without any warning” as “profoundly inhuman and immoral.”

De Villiers, who also leads the right-wing Movement for France party, wrote in the open letter that the company was “sacrificing without the slightest scruple the livelihood of 380 employees.”

But SKF spokeswoman Ingalill Östman rejected de Villiers’ claims, telling AFP that the company had held talks with labour representatives to try and keep the plant running following its June 30th announcement.

“It was not an easy decision. We have had long discussions with unions to find all kinds of ways of keeping production at this facility,” she said.

Östman explained the factory is operating at “well below 50 percent of its capacity.”

SKF announced June 30th that it would close the plant as part of a wider plan to restructure and cut costs.

It currently employs 44,799 people worldwide including around 4,000 in France, according to its website.

At the close of trading on the Stockholm exchange on Tuesday, shares in SKF were up by 0.53 percent at 94.50 kronor.

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