The Week in Business
Aluminium • Aleris Aluminium producer Aleris announced last week that it will cut its workforce by 770, representing almost half of all jobs in the company. Based in Duffel near Antwerp, Aleris will shut down four of its five production lines due to high production costs in Belgium and the worldwide slump in demand for aluminium. The unions said they were expecting cuts but not on this scale.
Beer • Maes
Flemish brewer Alken-Maes has launched a new lager with a higher strength and more robust taste. The beer will contain 5.2% volume alcohol, compared with the current 4.8%. The company, based in Antwerp province, hopes it can increase the market share of Maes, currently the second most popular beer in Belgium after Jupiler.
Electronics • Philips
The Dutch electronics manufacturer Philips has recalled millions of Senseo coffee makers because of a safety problem. The safety valve designed to release pressurised air from the machine could become blocked by calcium deposits, which might cause an explosion. The company says the risk is just “three in one million” but has recalled all machines manufactured between 2006 and 2008 as a precaution. Some 475,000 faulty machines were sold in Belgium.
Employment • New Europeans
The Belgian government has finally decided to allow all Eastern Europeans to work in the country without a permit. The government had been planning to ask the European Commission for an extension on its restrictive labour policy, which makes it difficult to employ East Europeans, but has now decided to open its labour market to workers from the former Communist countries that joined the EU in 2004.
Shipping • Antwerp
The volume of goods passing through the Port of Antwerp dropped by almost 20% in the first three months of 2009, according to figures released by the port authority Gemeentelijk Havenbedrijf. The docks handled some 37 million tonnes of goods between January and March this year, down from 46 million tonnes in the first three months of 2008. The number of containers also fell sharply, while the volume of cars passing through the port dropped by 45% due to declining sales across Europe.
Transport • Eurostar
Eurostar saw its turnover drop by 5.8% in the first three months of 2009, compared to the previous year, the company announced. The number of passengers dropped over the same period to 1.92 million, as against 2.17 million last year. According to Eurostar the drop was due partly to a fire in September 2008, which resulted in reduced services up until 23 February 2009. But the economic crisis also played a role in the poor results, the company said.