The world's leading sailboat builder, French-owned Beneteau, plans to cut nearly 600 jobs to stay afloat during the economic crisis.
The shipbuilder which employs 4,000 people in France said on Thursday sales of sailboats and yachts had dropped by 50 per cent as the downturn hits the recreation industry head-on.
"There is no point in deluding people; we have no other choice but layoffs," said Bruno Cathelinais, president of Beneteau's management board. "There is no escaping it."
Beneteau management opened talks with employees on redundancy packages with a view to reaching agreement in the next eight days.
The company based in the Vendee region on France's Atlantic coast estimated it has 1,590 excess staff.
"The goal is to save a maximum of jobs, at least 1,000 and I hope we will cut a maximum of 590 jobs," Cathelinais told AFP.
Beneteau employs about 6,000 people worldwide in 20 plants.
© 2009 AFP