WEEKS after announcing the closure of its North Tyneside factory with the loss of 600 jobs US semiconductor maker Atmel has unveiled impressive financial results.

The Californian company posted global sales of £201.2m for the three months to September 30, up 3.4% from the previous quarter, and profits were also impressively ahead at £12.2m.

But the third quarter results have exposed the company to criticism following its closure of the Tyneside plant. Atmel announced in December last year that it was putting its factory up for sale, along with another facility in Germany.

The US company said it would allow 12 months before deciding whether to close the site, but then last month there was an announcement the factory was to close and the site was to be sold to property company Highbridge. Atmel said it chose to sell its site to Cobalt Business Park developer Highbridge, in preference to other offers, as it was the only “feasible” bid on the table.

Kevin Rowan, regional secretary of the TUC, said last night: “Obviously we are disappointed when there are any major job losses in the region – particularly when they are skilled jobs.

And when we find it’s happening in a reasonably profitable, successful multi-national organisation, it makes those people losing their jobs especially disappointed that they have not shown more loyalty to them.

Steven Laub, president and chief executive of Atmel, said: “We are pleased to have exceeded the upper end of our revenue guidance due to strong demand for our products in all geographies.

He added: “As our recent announcements have indicated, we are delivering on our strategic restructuring initiatives as we continue to refocus business operations for profitable growth.”

And even on a year-to-year comparison, Atmel’s sales were only slightly down from the £207.7m generated in the same quarter last year, when profits stood at £12.5m .

Nobody from Atmel in the UK was available to comment yesterday.

Atmel acquired the former Siemens factory in North Tyneside in 2000 and eventually started production in 2002 with production peaking in 2004 at 60 million microchips per month.

More than 100 businesses are said to have inquired about hiring the skilled workforce at Atmel when the plant closes early next year.

A response group – headed by North Tyneside Council – and including One NorthEast, Job Centre Plus, Business Link North-East, Learning and Skills Council and North-East Chamber of Commerce is working to find new jobs for the staff.

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