TEXTILES: Hot Pants, Cold Comfort

Hit by a one-two-three punch of changes in fashions, imports from Japan and general economic uncertainty, European manufacturers of synthetic fibers are suffering. Many of their plants are working at only 70% to 80% of capacity. At that level, the profits of older and smaller plants have been wiped out. Even such giants as Britain's Courtaulds and Imperial Chemical Industries, France's Rhone-Poulenc, Germany's Farbwerke Hoechst and Italy's Montedison have been weakened by financial fibrosis.

The Netherlands' AKZO, for example, is laying off more than 6,000 workers, a draconian measure that has raised...

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