Danone could cut Europe staff amid flagging sales

The French food giant Danone said Thursday it could shift some European staff to other positions as it tries to save an additional €200 million ($260 million) amid flagging sales on the continent.

The new figure comes on top of a plan to save €500 million per year that had already been drawn up as the cost of raw materials climbed and Danone mapped out a strategy to invest in emerging markets.

At the moment, "it is too early to evaluate the impact" of the new plan, Danone executive Laurent Sacchi told AFP.

It would nonetheless certainly affect managerial and support staff and would be carried out "on a voluntary basis and by giving a priority to internal mobility," he added.

Danone employs 27,000 people in Europe, almost one quarter of its total workforce. Details of the plan are to be presented to staff representatives in March.

As at other big companies, Danone sales have suffered from the European debt crisis as unemployment rises and households cut spending on a wide range of items, including food.

Elsewhere, the group has reported sales growth, but in southern Europe, Danone sales fell by more than 10 percent in the third quarter of this year from the previous three-month period.

In afternoon trading on the Paris stock exchange, shares in the food group showed a gain of 0.79 percent to 50.76 euros, while the CAC 40 index of French blue chips was 0.09 percent higher overall.

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