Business

Losses at Caterpillar in Northern Ireland hit £1.8m last year ahead of planned lay offs

Caterpillar plans to consolidate some of its Northern Ireland operations at the Springvale plant in west Belfast

CATERPILLAR in Northern Ireland - which earlier this year announced plans for 250 redundancies - made a loss of £1.8m last year, according to newly filed accounts.

It was a major swing into the red for the manufacturer which had enjoyed pre-tax profits of £3.8m in 2014.

The company, which makes diesel generators, has already proposed closing its Monkstown plant and consolidating operations in Derry and Springvale, Belfast.

The firm said the 11 per cent decline in turnover could be "primarily attributed to ongoing global economic conditions and weak demand for electric power products".

"This decline in electric power product was partially offset by growth in articulated truck axle sales," it added.

However, it was not enough to stave off a reconstruction plan which is set to take place over the next two years.

Average headcount was already in decline at Caterpillar's operations in the north falling to 1,779 last year from 1,883 in 2014.

But while numbers were reduced across production, administration, sales and technical staff, the number of management roles actually increased by three to 58.

The cutbacks allowed the firm to slash its wage bill by almost 10 per cent to £67.2m.

It came as the volume of generator sets produced plummeted to 12,306 from 20,541.

Notes with Caterpillar's accounts confirmed the "potential closure of the Monkstown facility and consolidation of logistics in Larne and Springvale".

"The company is also considering discontinuing production of 25-ton and larger material handlers in Northern Ireland, including the planned launch of large material handler models for Europe," it added.

"This restructuring is part of the company's ongoing plans to reduce cost in response to current economic and business conditions."

American-owned Caterpillar is the world's largest maker of heavy plant machinery.

It has been restructuring its businesses as demand slows for construction, mining, and energy and transportation products, and since the middle of last year it has slashed 13,900 jobs worldwide.

The company employs 1,800 people at three centres across the north and it has around 9,000 on the payroll of 20 major facilities across the UK.

The firm arrived in Northern Ireland when it bought FG Wilson in 1999.

But since 2011, it has shed more than 1,000 jobs from its payroll across the north.

The worldwide Caterpillar Group reported revenues of $10.3 billion (£8.4bn) for the second quarter of this year - down from $12.3bn (£10.1bn) for the same period in 2014.

At the time, the company said the performance was "better than expected" and showed that its "cost reduction efforts are paying off".

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