January 25, 2010 / 5:51 PM / 8 years ago

Waterford crystal tradition gets its sparkle back

DUBLIN (Reuters) - A new crystal factory is to open in Waterford, reviving a centuries-long tradition, just over a year after production ceased in the southern Irish town.

The new factory, which will have huge local significance as the manufacturer of one of Ireland’s most famous brands, is scheduled to open in June and will employ 80-90 staff, as well as 30-40 temporary workers, WWRD, the new owners of Waterford Crystal, said on Monday.

“The sparkle of a new beginning is the tag-line,” said Pierre de Villemejane, chief executive of WWRD Group Holdings Ltd, which brings together Waterford Crystal, Wedgwood, and Royal Doulton.

The brands used to belong to Waterford Wedgwood Plc, which was delisted after calling in the receivers in January 2009.

De Villemejane said Waterford returned to profitability last September after five years of losses and he forecast a 10 percent increase in sales for the full-year 2010, following a 25 percent decline between April and December last year.

Sales should be boosted, he said, by new designs and marketing campaigns.

Higher volume manufacture will be outsourced to WWRD partners, which have maintained production throughout, while the new Waterford factory will make the most luxurious and expensive crystalware.

Examples of top-end products, including a crystal violin, were on display at the Dublin news conference.

“We recognized that the strength and the power of this brand really rests on the fantastic cultural heritage ... that has been built in Waterford,” de Villemejane told reporters.

The sparkling catch-phrase could still have a hollow ring for some of the 480 who lost their jobs.

At the time, workers staged a sit-in at the visitors’ gallery at the old Waterford factory.

U.S. private equity group KPS Capital Partners, the owner of WWRD, announced in February 2009 it was buying the assets of British and Irish businesses Waterford Wedgwood. It did not disclose how much it paid.

Reporting by Barbara Lewis; Editing by Rupert Winchester

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