UNITED KINGDOM

Govt unlocks loans for ailing auto industry

The UK's business secretary, Peter Mandelson, has announced the unlocking of 2.3 billion pounds (2.5 billion euros) in loans for the country's beleaguered auto industry. But he insists that "this is no bailout".

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AFP - Britain said on Tuesday it would unlock up to 2.3 billion pounds (2.5 billion euros, 3.2 billion dollars) in credit funding for its ailing auto industry.

"We will offer guarantees to unlock loans of up to 1.3 billion pounds from the European Investment Bank," Business Secretary Lord Peter Mandelson said in the House of Lords.

"Second, we will offer guarantees to support up to a further one billion pounds of lending or loans where appropriate."

As in other countries, Britain's auto industry has been hit hard by the global slowdown. Production slumped by nearly half in December as manufacturers responded to sliding demand, industry figures released last week showed.

But Mandelson insisted: "This industry is not a lame duck and this is no bailout."

"The automotive industry with its more than one million employees... is at the front line of the downturn with output falling faster and further than any other sector," he added.

"The steps we're taking today will help companies speed their way to becoming greener, innovative and more productive".

Japanese giant Nissan announced earlier this month it was cutting 1,200 jobs in its plant in Sunderland, northeast England, which has around 5,000 workers and is one of the biggest employers in the region.

Luxury carmakers Jaguar and Bentley have also announced production stoppages to reflect lower demand. Jaguar, an iconic British brand owned by Indian group Tata Motors, has also slashed 450 jobs.

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