Future secure for major employer

A MAJOR Suffolk textile firm which narrowly escaped closure three years ago has had its future secured thanks to a massive £150m takeover deal.Bosses at the Guilford Europe site in Great Cornard, which has a 125-strong workforce, say the move is "great news" and will safeguard its long-term prospects.

A MAJOR Suffolk textile firm which narrowly escaped closure three years ago has had its future secured thanks to a massive £150m takeover deal.

Bosses at the Guilford Europe site in Great Cornard, which has a 125-strong workforce, say the move is "great news" and will safeguard its long-term prospects.

The factory, Great Cornard's largest employer, is a subsidiary of Guilford Worldwide, which has now been purchased by US private equity firm Cerberus as a going concern.

The move means that the workforce in Great Cornard and another 450 employees at its two sister sites in Alfreton, Derbyshire, will be preserved long term.


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Guilford Europe specialises in making hi-tech car fabrics, while much of the American-based Guilford Worldwide operated within the clothing industry and many of its operations there have been forced to close in the face of stiff competition from Asia.

Although the company's shares have increased five-fold in the last year they were owned by its bank, which led to the decision to sell out to a new investor.

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Guilford Europe's general manager Tony Millington said: "Half of the Guilford Worldwide operation was involved in the clothing industry, and many were forced to close down. As a result we needed to restructure and close down the uncompetitive businesses and concentrate on our high-tech automotive fabrics.

"In 2002 the company basically had to re-organise its circumstances, which meant the bank owned the shares. Cerberus has taken over and wants to invest in the company rather than being interested in selling the shares. This is absolutely fantastic news, we have been working on refinancing the business for the past two years, and the take-over has always been part of our overall strategy.

"We will continue to trade as Guilford Europe and there will be no changes in the management or the workforce. The future is looking very bright, and this move shows our commitment to the Cornard site, which is now in a very solid position."

The current mood at the Cornard site is in stark contrast to the gloom of three years ago, when the site was only saved from closure thanks to an 11th hour deal.

The situation at the factory had become so dire bosses had already agreed redundancy packages with the dejected workforce.

At the time bosses said they had to offset the strength of the pound and meet customer demands to achieve a 20% reduction in production costs.

A decision was taken to close the Cornard site and move all operations to Derbyshire, but following a shake-up of senior staff the firm's American executives reversed the decision.

Last night Cornard site manager Nigel Booth said: "We are delighted with the restructure, it has secured our long-term future and everything is looking very positive.

"We are now looking to take on another 10 members of staff here at the Cornard site."

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