(Corrects typographical fault in the spelling of "exposure" in paragraph 3)
PARIS May 6 Schneider Electric will unveil a plan next month to restructure several industrial sites in France to offset the impact of a strong euro, a move some unionists fear could mean plant closures and up to 200 job cuts.
The company, which holds its annual shareholder meeting later on Tuesday, confirmed it was studying ways to specialise and consolidate its units making low voltage electrical equipment and industrial automation systems.
"The goal is to preserve the group's industrial competitiveness... and to reduce Schneider Electric's exposure to foreign exchange effects," a company spokesman said. "Schneider Electric's management has agreed to meet with staff representatives in June to define the options envisaged."
Schneider, which reports earnings in euros, makes about 75 percent of its revenue in foreign currencies and 40 percent in emerging markets. The group has signalled in past months it planned to shift more production to countries including India and Russia to protect margins from currency swings, but has so far declined to give details or say whether this would imply plant closures in Europe.
The news comes as a string of job losses in France's ailing industry is giving Socialist President Francois Hollande a serious headache two years into his mandate. The government is currently trying to weigh into the planned sale of engineering group Alstom's power business in a bid to preserve jobs and plants in France.
"Will Schneider Electric's industrial sites have the same fate as the French industry in general?" left-wing Force Ouvriere (FO), the company's main union, wrote in a statement.
FO representative Lilian Aube told Reuters the planned restructuring was not expected to affect services or sales operations for the moment but would likely mean closures of production and logistics units.
Schneider's medium-voltage business was already restructured after the company took over the power distribution business of energy group Areva in 2010. (Reporting by Gilles Guillaume, Writing by Natalie Huet; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)