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French partition Company Clestra in Receivership

Thursday 15 November 2012

Unions fear the loss of 100 to 150 jobs after Clestra, a leading French office partitions manufacturer, was placed in receivership yesterday.

A troubled relocation of its manufacturing two years ago, compounded by a sharp decline in orders and contracts, had put the business under increasing stress.

If the holding structure of Clestra Hauserman does finally succumb to the judicial safeguards, its three operating subsidiaries will be put into receivership by the Court in Strasbourg. Clestra employ 560 employees, mainly in Illkirch, Alsace.

It is a further blow for the company’s parent body, Windhurst Industries, after another branch of its family - Parisot, a manufacturer of flat-pack furniture – was declared insolvent last week.

Initially, the court granted Clestra a six month period of grace to sort out its finances. However the President of the court, Martine Rivet, has scheduled a hastened new hearing for mid-January 2013, to review the situation of the company.

"The first difficulty, she said, “was in 2010-2011, when Clestra left its historic site at Koenigshoffen, Strasbourg, and relocated to Illkirch on the former industrial site of Alcatel. Delays in the move, including a complete redesign that has cost more than € 11 million, were hampered in 2011 by a sharp drop in its backlog of orders. This resulted in a decrease of 30 per cent in sales, costing more than a projected €220 million profit.”

Yesterday’s announcement is a major reversal for the company which had experienced significant growth in recent years.

Things had seemed on the rise for Clestra back in 2009 after securing a contract for King Saud University in Riyadh which included 70 kilometres of partitions and six months of labour. This was followed by the move to Illkirch and construction of additional buildings totalling in 15,000 square metres, increasing Clestra’s production capacity by 30 per cent.

On the crest of this wave, the company also expanded into manufacturing partitions for cleanrooms.

Each operation was conducted with financial support from Windhurst Industries’ Strategic Investment Fund, the prime capital of the Windhurst group. Following a series of acquisitions, including Clestra in 2009, Windhurst Industries has in recent years become Europe’s leading interior design group, with a dozen sites, 4,300 employees and a turnover of 550 million euros. However the general slowdown of the economy in Europe is beginning to take its toll.

Now, unions at Illkirch fear the imminent announcement by the administrators of cuts to 100 to 150 job cuts, the 450 site.

Clestra Hauserman, a company originally founded in Cleveland 1913, employs approximately 1,250 people worldwide, with 24 subsidiaries and production units abroad, particularly in Pune, India, and Gumi, South Korea.

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