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April 9, 2019

Bekaert to downsize in Belgium as part of response to changing environment

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Bekaert announced that it is taking wide-ranging steps to improve the company’s competitiveness that will include downsizing in Belgium—where it is based—cutting operational costs and shifting some operations and activities to be more cost-effective.

"We want to organize ourselves in a more agile and cost-efficient way," said a press release that noted that margins have suffered to where action is called for. It outlined steps in three areas.

The first calls for relocating some activities in Belgium to lower-cost locations. Those include: moving the production-related standard test lab activities to production plants that have a global service role; moving the spare parts activities to Slovakia, close to Bekart’s main production plants in Central Europe; and moving certain pilot line developments and upscaling pilot developments to industrialization. These activities would be located in the relevant "key learning plants" to speed up the development and time to bring product and process innovations to market.

The second step relates to the very competitive nature of the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) market for steel fibers in the European concrete reinforcement market, the release said. Because competitors have moved their manufacturing footprint to Central Europe or are sourcing fibers from low-cost countries, Bekaert’s Dramix® plant in Moen, Belgium, is not competitive with the current pricing trends in EMEA. As such, Bekaert will close the Moen plant and further upscale Dramix production at its plant in Petrovice, Czech Republic.

The third step is "to reduce certain activities and align them better with the business needs and the new organizational structure of the Group," the release said. This would include a downsizing of administrative and other support roles "by better leveraging the potential of standardization, centralization, outsourcing and relocation." As a result, the engineering, technology and functional departments in Belgium will focus "much more on their respective, global expertise roles and act as strategic business partners. They will be helping the business with the capability to deliver on the short- and long-term goals."

The release said that implementing the described actions "will improve our competitive position in the market place worldwide by significantly reducing our cost structure, which will help improve the financial performance of the Group sustainably."

The restructuring would affect 281 jobs in Belgium. Per a report in flandsersnews.be, the job losses include 70 at Moen, outside Zwevegem; a further 44 in Zwevegem itself; 106 in Deerlijk; and 61 in Ingelmuntser.

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