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Richemont to Cut More Than 200 Swiss Jobs Amid Watch Woes

Richemont plans to cut more than 200 watchmaking jobs in Switzerland, according to the Unia trade union, as the jeweller scales back further in response to weakening demand.
By
  • Bloomberg

ZURICH, Switzerland — Richemont plans to cut more than 200 watchmaking jobs in Switzerland, according to the Unia trade union, as the jeweller scales back further in response to weakening demand.

The biggest cutbacks will probably be at the Piaget and Vacheron Constantin brands, a Unia spokesman said by phone. Richemont contacted the union at the end of last week and will meet with employee representatives tomorrow at three Swiss sites, he said. Richemont declined to comment.

News of the cuts comes 10 days after Chairman Johann Rupert said he's abolishing the chief executive officer position in the company's biggest management shakeup since 2009. The Swiss watch industry has been grappling with the most challenging times since the quartz crisis of the 1970s and 1980s, when battery-powered watches threatened to make mechanical timepieces obsolete. Withering demand in Asia has spread to Europe and the US this year and has led Richemont to buy back unsold inventory from retailers and refocus on more affordable pieces.

The company, whose full name is Cie. Financiere Richemont SA, already cut about 100 jobs this year, with the majority at its biggest brand, Cartier. Richemont workers at the time were also offered early retirement, job transfers and voluntary departures. It has since repeatedly stated it plans no further job cuts.

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Richemont this month said first-half operating profit fell 43 percent to 798 million euros ($860 million). The company will deal with overcapacity in watches by reducing production, Rupert said in a November 4 statement.

Separately, Richemont agreed to sell some investment properties in Paris, which it expects to boost operating profit by 150 million euros.

By Corinne Gretler; editors: Matthew Boyle and Paul Jarvis.

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