Cutting More Jobs, Pressmaker Wifag Seeks Partner

By: Jim Rosenberg A day after the IFRA Expo concluded in Vienna, Switzerland's Wifag-Polytype Group, announced that because its newspaper press manufacturing unit, Wifag Maschinenfabrik AG, has been "particularly hard hit" during the recession, it is being restructured within the parent group and repositioned.

Wifag will continue to sell to "the now smaller newsprint market, preferably in cooperation with a strong partner," and plans to eliminate 300 more jobs by the end of next July. It cut 90 jobs earlier this year.

Birmingham, Ala.-based Sales Vice President Tom Stuart told E&P that as far as he knew, the pressmaker is retaining its presence in North America.

Wifag's latest U.S. customer, E.W. Scripps' Naples (Fla.) News Media, hosted the just-concluded Southern Newspaper Publishers Association meeting, and Naples Publisher Chris Doyle was a featured speaker at last week's IFRA Congress and Expo in Vienna.

Besides Wifag's offset web presses, the Wifag-Polytype Group's other units sell package-printing presses, converting machines, and digital printers. Its Wifac-Group Holland is involved in the wholesale trade in products for the graphic industry.

Group sales for 2008 exceeded 500 million Swiss francs in 2008, when approximately 1,500 persons were employed worldwide. In announcing Wifag's restructuring, however, the group said that its non-newspaper business areas "are doing well in the crisis and operating successfully on turbulent markets."

For its web presses "in the top technology and price segment," the company said it experienced an "unprecedented" worldwide downturn in orders and is "suffering from a dramatic price collapse."

In addition to severance arrangements, Wifag said all its apprentices will be allowed to complete their training and that the company will fully meet its delivery and service obligation.

The group said its board of directors arrived at its decision after reviewing a comprehensive assessment of the situation by an internal group working with outside experts.


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