Berkshire's Duracell to close S.Carolina plant, affecting 430 workers

Thu Jul 28, 2016 10:27am EDT
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July 28 (Reuters) - Duracell said it plans to close a battery-making plant in South Carolina that employs 430 people, making the announcement fewer than five months after being acquired by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

The shutdown of the Lancaster, South Carolina, plant, which made AA batteries, will begin in March and should be completed by the middle of 2019, Duracell said in a statement dated Wednesday.

Duracell is consolidating its North American production of AA and AAA batteries into a plant in LaGrange, Georgia.

"This was a very difficult decision," Robert Lorch, Duracell's president of global operations, said in a statement. "We're taking this important step to position the Duracell business for growth."

Duracell said the move will lead to "some" job growth in LaGrange, which is about 330 miles (531 km) southwest of Lancaster, and that Lancaster workers will be encouraged to apply for work there.

The company, which said it has about 3,000 employees, also makes C and D batteries in a plant in Cleveland, Tennessee.

Berkshire acquired Bethel, Connecticut-based Duracell plus $1.8 billion of cash on Feb. 29 in exchange for about $4.2 billion of stock it held in Procter & Gamble Co, Duracell's former owner.

Since 1965, Buffett has built Berkshire into a conglomerate with roughly 90 operating businesses employing more than 360,000 people. He prefers to leave day-to-day decision making, including job cuts, to executives who run those businesses.

Kraft Heinz Co, which Berkshire and private equity firm 3G Capital created through acquisitions, has shed thousands of jobs under the 3G management team that runs the food company. Buffett has praised 3G's efforts. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Bill Trott)