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Philips to shut UK baby bottle factory post Brexit

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Philips has announced plans to shut a UK factory with the potential loss of 430 jobs, months after expressing worries about a potential hit from Brexit.

The Dutch healthcare company said it aimed to close its Philips Avent baby bottle plant at Glemsford in Suffolk in 2020 and transfer most of the work to its home country.

It stressed that the possibility of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit was not the primary factor in its decision, despite the company’s chief executive Frans van Houten warning late last year it may have to “rethink” its manufacturing operations.

He had said maintaining a custons union was a “minimum” requirement for the company.

Philips said the closure formed part of a programme, started in 2017, to consolidate its sites globally from 50 to 30.

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However, its statement added: “Philips needs to pro-actively mitigate the potential impact of various ongoing geopolitical challenges, including uncertainties and possible obstructions that may affect its manufacturing operations.

“Philips has therefore been reconfiguring its supplier base and supply chains in North America, Europe and Asia as appropriate.

“The flexibility associated with its regional, multi-modality manufacturing sites is key to these mitigation actions.”

The company said the primary focus at Glemsford was the production of one product for export.

Philips employs a total of 1,500 people in the UK and confirmed the staff affected were now being consulted over redundancy.

Neil Mesher, chief executive of Philips UK & Ireland, said: “I recognize that our proposed plan will have a profound impact on our colleagues working at the Glemsford site, and our manufacturing presence in the UK.

“We have announced the proposal after careful consideration, and over the next period, we will work closely with the impacted colleagues on next steps.

“Philips has a long, established history of serving customers within the UK, and we remain committed to them.

“The UK is an important market for us, and we will continue to invest in our commercial organisation and innovation programmes in the country.”

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