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Heinz plans to close 2 plants in Europe

| Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, 1:03 p.m.

European operations are the latest to hit the chopping block at H.J. Heinz Co. as the Pittsburgh food company cuts costs under new ownership.

The iconic ketchup maker said Wednesday that it plans to close two factories and lay off about 350 workers in Belgium and Germany to improve efficiency. The move follows three factory closures in North America that eliminated 1,350 jobs.

Heinz spokesman Michael Mullen said the company plans to close a factory in Turnhout, Belgium, that produces condiments and other products for restaurants and employs 157 people. It will close a plant in Seesen, Germany, where 190 workers make fridge packs of beans and pasta.

Mullen said the closures are “part of a comprehensive and on-going review of our company's European supply chain footprint.”

The company must consult with unions representing workers before shuttering the plants. He declined to say how many people Heinz employs in Europe.

Work from the Belgium and German plants will shift to some of Heinz's 15 other factories in Europe, Mullen said.

“Our proposal to consolidate manufacturing across Heinz Europe, if implemented, would be a critical step in our plan to ensure we are operating as efficiently and effectively as possible to become more competitive in a challenging environment,” he said.

Heinz went private in a $28 billion deal by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital, an investment firm founded by three Brazilian billionaires known for slashing costs and shaking up management at companies they buy.

The company has said it wants to boost growth, especially in emerging markets such as India, China and Brazil. Heinz is saddled with loans from the buyout, which nearly tripled the company's debt to $14 billion, from $5 billion.

Alex Nixon is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7928 or anixon@tribweb.com.

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