Lebanon’s economic recession continues to take a heavy toll. Societe des Ciments Libanais (SCL), the country's largest cement producer, intends laying off 150 workers next week, according to the Khaleej Times Beirut correspondent. This would reduce the total number of workers at SCL to 250, compared to 700 back in 1997, and save the company about $3.5 million in annual salaries and benefits.
SCL fortunes have seen difficulties in the past three years as a result of a severe slowdown in the Lebanese construction and real estate sectors. SCL General Manager Dominique Drouap said SCL made a net loss of nine million dollars in 2000 and a $19-million loss in 1999.
"This situation cannot continue forever, we have to take drastic measures to save the company or else we will go under," Drouap was quoted. "If the company continues to operate without any measures to reduce losses, we will have to shut down the plant after declaring bankruptcy."
The company has yet to negotiate a compensation package with the workers who are being dismissed. SCL forked out some $12 million in compensation in 1999 for more than 300 workers who were laid off at the time.
Drouap said that the low level of demand in the Lebanese market means that the company can operate with a skeleton staff of 250 workers. Furthermore, SCL’s labor demand has been reduced with the introduction of an automated $165-million furnace.
SCL's annual cement production fell to 1.2 million tons last year from two million tons in 1997. Total cement production in Lebanon fell to 2.6 million tons from four million tons three years ago.
SCL is more than 51 percent owned by the Swiss-based Holderbank Group. Its shares, which are listed on the Beirut Stock Exchange, are currently trading at an all-time low of $0.41. — (Albawaba-MEBG)
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)