Gauloises Maker Closing Its Biggest Plant in France, AFP Says

The biggest cigarette plant in France, which churns out Gauloises and Gitanes, is being shuttered.

According to Agence France-Presse, the plant owned by Seita, a unit of the U.K.’s Imperial Tobacco Group Plc, is closing the plant in Carquefou, near the city of Nantes, and moving production to Poland. The closing of the plant, which produces 12.2 billion cigarettes a year, will affect 327 jobs, the news service said, citing union representatives.

The move marks a symbolic retreat in France by Seita, which was granted a tobacco manufacturing and distribution monopoly by Louis XIV’s finance minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert in the 17th century. The company, which was privatized by the state in 1995, merged with its Spanish counterpart Tabacalera in 1999 to form Altadis and was bought by Imperial Tobacco in 2007.

Seita still has 25.3 percent of the French cigarette market, Le Figaro newspaper said yesterday, adding that about 60 percent of the output of the Nantes factory was destined for exports to the rest of Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

The plan to move production out of France comes as Imperial Tobacco seeks to cut costs by 385 million euros ($533 million) between now and 2018, the newspaper said. The company held an extraordinary meeting with its workers’ council today, AFP said.

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