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Solvay melts 250 jobs to compete with Far East

EUROPEAN chemical manufacturer Solvay is to rationalise its refrigerant manufacturing with the cull of 250 jobs in Europe.
The move is designed to restore competitiveness to the business in the face of strong competition from the Far East and a drop in demand for refrigerants.

'In the future, we will put a stronger focus on fluorinated specialties requiring a lot of know-how and generating high added value, rather than on mass production which can be done at lower cost outside Europe,' said Bernd Wilkes, general manager of the Strategic Business Unit Fluor.

Solvay is a global leader for a number of high-value-added fluorinated chemical specialties for use in aluminum brazing, insulation and propellant gases for medical sprays.

'Large quantities of fluorinated products, in particular for refrigerants in automotive air-conditioning systems, have been flowing out of the Far East onto the global markets, since 2006,' said Wilkes.

'As a consequence, over the last 18 months, we have seen a severe drop in volumes and prices for our refrigerant products, while production costs increased significantly.'

The competitiveness and sales of these products were also
affected by high energy prices, the strength of the Euro and the accelerated phasing out of fluorinated refrigerant gases induced by European regulations.

Solvay is planning a significant reorganization of its Fluor chemicals activities, which would remove 250 jobs, more than a third of its workforce on five sites at Hannover, Bad Wimpfen, Frankfurt (Germany), Porto Marghera, (Italy) and Tarragona (Spain).

Solvay Fluor currently employs 730 people on these sites.
Solvay refrigerants under the Solkane brand are distributed by A-Gas in the UK.

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