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Thursday, September 16, 1999 Published at 18:52 GMT 19:52 UK

UK: Scotland

Union fears for Pringle jobs

The Pringle name is known around the world

A union has expressed concern at the sale of the world-famous knitwear brand Pringle of Scotland which employs 400 people in the Scottish Borders.

The announcement has been made by Pringle's parent company Dawson International PLC, which blames declining sales and the strong pound for the decision.

BBC Scotland Business Reporter Hayley Miller reports
GMB union official John Farries said: "We are obviously concerned as a trade union.

"Will a buyer be found and will that buyer remain within Hawick and the Borders as a manufacturing unit?"

Dawson's Chief Executive Peter Forrest told BBC Scotland: "We hope very much to find an international buyer with real brand development expertise, with synergies, distribution and so on, that can indeed help accelerate the development of Pringle."

Peter Forrest: "Pringle is being sold as a going concern"
He said Pringle had been an important "but by no means a major part" of the group's activities. The sale process had been under way for several weeks and there had already been several expressions of interest.

"We are very, very much in the business of selling it as a going concern, we are not talking about closures or anything of that sort - we are selling the whole Pringle business," Mr Forrest stressed.

Factory closures

In June 1998, Dawson shed 720 jobs from Pringle with the closure of two factories in Scotland and other lay-offs. The group said the strong pound was making exports more expensive.

[ image: The company is being sold as a going concern]
The company is being sold as a going concern
Dawson, which published its interim results on Thursday, reported pre-tax losses of £10.6m half-year to 3 July, compared to losses of £10.2m last year.

The group said it expected to dispose of the balance of loss-making, non-core businesses in the short term.

Its core cashmere businesses were performing well and were expected to move "strongly back" into profit by the end of this financial year.

The group said it hoped to be in a position to consider a dividend payment for the first time in two years, following the expected approval by the courts for the cancellation of the share premium account sanctioned at the company's EGM in August.

Decision 'telegraphed'

Scottish Borders Enterprise Chief Executive Jim McFarlane said the announcement was "not entirely unexpected".

He said: "This had in effect been telegraphed by the company earlier in the year that they were progressively moving out of what they call non-core business.

[ image: There are calls to retain production locally]
There are calls to retain production locally
"The company's intention is to sell the business as a going concern so they will run the business until a buyer is found.

"We want to ensure that production of the Pringle brands remains in the Borders as far as possible.

"The workforce has a skill base which we would hope would be of interest to any purchaser," he added.

The Provost of Hawick John Ross Scott said: "Pringle is a name that is worldwide known and I believe it is one that hopefully will attract buyers.

"What we've got to ensure as far as the workforce, one of the best workforces in the world is concerned, is that no-one buys the firm just to take over the name and then move it out of the Borders.

"We've got to have assurances that Pringle is retained in Hawick."

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