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NWL restructure to affect Wales

Far East crisis blamed, not semiconductor industry

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South Wales is bracing itself for another set of job losses after the semiconductor silicon wafer foundry Newport Wafer-Fab Ltd confirmed it was to undergo a period of restructuring. Chief executive Steve Byars said that the business was "fundamentally sound" despite the difficulties in the semiconductor industry but declined to confirm newspaper reports that job losses were imminent. Instead, he issued a statement announcing the restructuring programme and blamed the continuing financial crisis in the Far East where NWL's parent company QPL International is based. Around 550 people work at the plant in south Wales, the largest independent semiconductor foundry in Europe, which makes microchips for leading brands and designers. The company has recently ploughed £230 million into its Newport foundry with a series of capital investments, a spokeswoman said. She declined to say whether her company had a grant from the Welsh Development Agency, whose policy has already come under some scrutiny. NWL is a subsidiary of QPL International Holdings, a semiconductor materials and services group based in Hong Kong. With a worldwide workforce in excess of 3,500, QPL reported a turnover for 1996/7 of HK $2.68 billion. ®

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