* Proposing to relocate production to Poland, Germany
* Part of plan to save 300 mln stg a year from Sept 2018
(Adds context, background, byline)
By Martinne Geller
LONDON, April 15 Britain's Imperial Tobacco
is shutting cigarette factories in England and France
with the loss of about 900 jobs as it grapples with declining
sales in Europe.
The maker of Gauloises and Davidoff cigarettes blamed the
closures on tough economic conditions, increased regulation and
taxes and growth in the illicit tobacco trade.
"These projects are an essential part of securing the
sustainable future of the business," said Chief Executive Alison
Cooper, calling the job cuts regrettable and promising to ensure
that employees are treated fairly and responsibly.
Smoking has declined in many countries because of public
bans, an increase in health awareness and plainer packaging.
France's cigarette market has almost halved since 2000. In
Britain it has fallen by about 42 percent, although a company
spokesman said some consumers had switched to loose tobacco.
Imperial, the world's fourth-largest international tobacco
company by market share, aims to launch two electronic
cigarettes this year. They are safer than traditional cigarettes
but also face the prospect of additional government regulation.
Imperial said the plants would close over the next two years
and production would be relocated to factories in Germany and
Poland. In place of a distribution centre also being shut in
Nottingham, central England, distribution will be outsourced.
Michel Laboureur of France's CGT union said there were no
plans for a strike since that would only cause more losses and
boost the case for closure.
The Nottingham factory and distribution centre employ 540
people but the factory is only expected to produce 17 billion
cigarettes this year, or 47 percent of capacity. The Nantes
factory in France employs 320 people and will produce about 43
percent of capacity.
There is also a proposal to close the company's Bergerac
research and development facility in France and restructure its
sales force and support function in Paris, which would affect
120 jobs, though the company said 80 new jobs could be created.
It is in the process of closing another factory in Cadiz,
The moves are part of Imperial Tobacco's wider plan to
deliver annual savings of 300 million pounds ($502 million) a
year from September 2018.
Consultations with employees, works councils and trade
unions are under way, the company said.
Imperial shares were up 0.7 percent in afternoon trading.
($1 = 0.5976 British Pounds)
(Additional reporting by Guillaume Frouin in Nantes; editing by