As of last night (Thursday) there was no sign of the stalemate being broken in the Waterford Crystal negotiations chaired by Kevin Foley of the Labour Relations Commission.

The talks, relating to the company’s plans to make 492 workers redundant, resumed at Faithlegg House Hotel on Wednesday after a break during which the LRC representative had hoped progress would be made between management and the UNITE union.

But after two further days of discussions the sides are believed to be no closer to agreement. The union is seeking to reduce the number being laid off and of course wants the best possible redundancy terms for those who must go.

When announcing the rationalisation plan in November the company indicated that it wanted to commence its implementation by April. If that target is to be met then something has got to give before long more.

Christmas miss

Meanwhile, Waterford Wedgwood Plc this morning forecast “substantially” greater losses than expected for the current trading year due to falling sales, and is to cut 311 jobs in Germany.

In an interim management statement issued to capital markets under EU transparency rules, the company said it expects sales revenues for the financial year ending March 31 to fall by 4% to around €700m.

Though “assumed to be imminent when the group announced its interim results” in November, a delay in securing a €57m private equity injection (from Lazard Alternative Investments) meant Waterford could not afford to manufacture, source and distribute enough of its products in time for the key Christmas market.

Due to this supply lag, third-quarter sales at €211.2m were down 3% on the previous year. Retail was also hurt by weaker consumer spending in the US and UK, where house prices have slumped.

It’s anticipated that the Rosenthal restructuring, which will result in a €12.5m provision for exceptional costs, will save the group €12.8m annually.

“When combined with the effect on profitability of the factors noted above, earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation before exceptional items for the year… is expected to be negative and substantially lower than broker expectations,” management confirmed.

Chief financial officer Anthony Jones, who joined the group in November, said today: “I accepted my position at Waterford Wedgwood because the group has great potential. The group has created a product portfolio which is in high demand and it is frustrating for management to report to shareholders that thus far sales and profits have not shown the commensurate improvement.

“There are a number of distinct opportunities to improve shareholder value that should be addressed with urgency”, he maintained.

Waterford’s share price – which plummeted by almost 75% last year – was unchanged at 1.9 cents on the Dublin Stock Exchange this morning.