French wine bottle producer sheds workers as it hands out €100m in dividends

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The global glass packaging firm Verallia produces two-thirds of new wine bottles in France and despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic it recently announced pre-tax earnings of 299 million euros for the first half of the year and paid out 100 million euros in dividends, most in the form of shares. Yet the company, which is owned by a New York-based private equity firm, has also announced a restructuring plan in France which will see the closure of one of its furnaces and the loss of more than a hundred jobs. Manuel Jardinaud reports on the mood of the company's workers in Cognac in south-west France as they fight to save their jobs.

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When you arrive in Cognac by train one of the first sights that greets you is that of three large red and white chimneys jutting into the air. These rise up from the furnaces at the glass packaging factory owned by Verallia, the former subsidiary of French multinational Saint-Gobain, and the producer of two-thirds of wine bottles in France. These chimneys, which peer out over the vineyards in this quiet corner of south-west France, have dominated the local landscape since 1963.