P.M. BRIEFING : Laura Ashley in Major Cutback

From Times Wire Services

Laura Ashley Holdings PLC, the British clothing and home furnishings retailer, said today it will close seven factories and cut 1,500 jobs, or nearly a fifth of its work force.

The company said the moves are part of an ongoing cost-cutting program it began last year. It attributed the closures and cuts to a need to counter the effects of a strong British pound and high inflation.

The company said it will be left with 6,650 workers and two manufacturing facilities.

The company lost $18.3 million in the year ended Jan. 27, in contrast to a net profit of $15.7 million in the previous year.

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