In response to fast but structural changes in the global solar energy market, to growing uncertainty in other markets and to longer term overall instability, Bekaert has announced a major realignment programme, consisting of two lines of action: Actions directly related to the changed market environment include the measures and plans to rightsize the company's global sawing wire operations including production, technology and engineering, and having an impact on operations in several countries. Also included is the intended realignment of stainless steel wire activities in Belgium.These changed market circumstances also drive a second line of action aiming at substantially improving the structure that supports Bekaert's global presence and diversified product portfolio. By optimising the efficiency and synergy potential within the organisation, the group targets substantial global cost savings. According to the company, both plans are necessary to restore its long-term profitability. The group has confirmed its determination to remain a global market and technological leader in full support of its customers. Bekaert has already taken actions to rightsize its sawing wire manufacturing footprint in China, following persistent low demand and very sharp price falls, driven by substantial overcapacity in the market. The implementation of these measures started in December 2011 and leads to a reduction of 1,250 jobs. On 2 February 2012, the company has advised its Belgian works councils concerning the impact of the proposed measures on the activities in Belgium. This includes the intention to downsize certain activities in Aalter, Zwevegem, Deerlijk and Ingelmunster. Moreover, in order to realign and optimise its organisational and cost structure on a global scale, the group has started a detailed study to identify measures to reduce its overall global cost structure by EUR 100 million annually in the forthcoming years. Impact in Belgium Difficult market conditions in the solar energy sector particularly affect the manufacturing plant in Aalter, which is largely engaged in sawing wire operations. The company says this calls for structural measures to be taken under which management feels compelled to announce the intention to stop all sawing wire activities in Aalter. The production activities of bead wire and half products would be gradually integrated in other entities of the group, says Bekaert. It is the intention to keep the advanced cords end-products department in Aalter and search, together with the social partners, for sustainable solutions. As a result of the global measures to rightsize the business footprint in sawing wire, Bekaert intends to adjust its resources and development priorities also in the technology center in Deerlijk and in the engineering plant in Ingelmunster. The competitive position of the stainless steel wire activities in Zwevegem has been under pressure since years. Consequently, Bekaert intends to limit the manufacturing activity of the Belgian stainless steel wire platform to products with high added value and to stainless fibre composite for Bekaert's fibre technology plant in Zwevegem. Approximately 600 jobs would be affected in Belgium. These plans and other initiatives to optimise the organisational and cost structure in general, aim at securing Bekaert's competitiveness as a group and ensuring a necessary alignment of the Belgian operations with the changed business context, says the company. Bert De Graeve, CEO, declared: "Unprecedented changes in market conditions of the solar business force immediate action. Our future lies in continuing to serve our customers worldwide with highly qualitative and innovative products and services. We are all determined, at Bekaert, to safeguard this basis for sustainable growth on a global scale. We do regret the personal consequences of this plan and, together with our social partners, we will do all we can to mitigate the social impact.