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Gretag sacks 400 on Christmas Eve

The company has been hit by a slump in orders

(Keystone Archive)

Swiss photo processing equipment maker, Gretag Imaging, has sacked its 400 Swiss-based workers on Christmas Eve.

Once a stock market favourite, Gretag last week filed for insolvency after falling victim to the digital revolution.

Patrick Jung, the Gretag chief, issued severance notices taking effect from December 24, that were delivered on Friday.

The company's board president, Felix Bagdasarjanz, said the decision to sack staff on the 24th had been taken by Jung, and not the Gretag board.

"Patrick Jung took the decision to send severance notices withhout consulting the board," Bagdasarjanz said.

He said the board believed sacking staff before the end of the year would have been innappropriate.

On Monday, the company confirmed that last-ditch efforts to resuscitate its business had failed.

"In the end, the problem of over-indebtedness, coupled with short-term liquidity needs, was an insurmountable hurdle," Gretag said in a statement.

The announcement came just hours ahead of an extraordinary shareholder meeting on Monday called to vote on a rescue package.

Analysts said Gretag had struggled to adjust capacity and staffing levels in the face of a slump in demand for its printing and developing products.

The company, whose headquarters are in Regensdorf near Zurich, has another 600 staff abroad.

It said that enough cash had been put aside to pay December's salaries.

Tumbling stocks

Shares in the firm have fallen more then 78 per cent this year, after losing more than 95 per cent of their value in 2001.

After setting a year-low in October of SFr0.80 per share, it traded last Friday at SFr1.45.

In April, Gretag reported a net loss of SFr285.7 million for 2001, up from a loss of SFr45.8 million in the previous year.

The company said sales dropped by 48 per cent to SFr460.7 million and the operating loss was SFr257 million, compared with a loss of SFr35.3 million in 2000.

Gretag said at the time that it had been hoping to break even in 2003, partly due to a cash injection from the United States photo giant, Kodak Co., which took over a five per cent stake in the company.

At its height, shares in Gretag traded at over SFr400.

swissinfo with agencies.

Gretag Imaging

Gretag Imaging has filed for insolvency.
400 workers have lost their jobs in Switzerland.
The company has been battling to cope with a slump in orders.

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