This has not been a good day in Europe, with more than 10,000 job cuts announced by the planemaker Airbus. At a press conference in Paris, Airbus director Louis Gallois said the firm is "facing huge challenges" and is "not efficient enough." France will be hardest hit with 4,300 job losses. Germany will lose 3,700 jobs, the United Kingdom, 1,600 jobs and Spain, 400 jobs.
Gallois blamed the prolonged weakness of the US dollar - the currency in which its planes are sold - for the restructuring. He told reporters cutbacks were triggered by production delays to the flagship A380 superjumbo project.
Airbus said compulsory redundancies would not be imposed, with about half the job losses coming from temporary workers or sub-contractors. Unions countered that they would fight the cuts. Airbus plans to cut 10,000 of its 57,000 jobs over the next four years. More work will be transferred to the firm's headquarters and main production facility in Toulouse, France. Wings for Airbus planes will be produced at Broughton in the UK, while Germany will handle cabin and fuselage manufacturing.
Airbus said it is considering the future of three of its 16 European plants - in Laupheim and Varel in Germany and Saint-Nazaire, France. The company is seeking additional investors to share production costs at three sites, including Filton in the UK. Airbus will also outsource more work.
The firm's financial difficulties have been worsened by problems building the A380 super-jumbo plane, already two years behind schedule. Delays to the plane, resulting from wiring problems discovered in 2005, are expected to cost the firm 4.8bn euros. Meanwhile, Airbus must pay compensation to airlines for late delivery of the A380. Some carriers have threatened to cancel their orders.
The company also plans to spend 11.6bn euros on building the A350, a mid-sized aircraft expected to compete with Boeing's 787 Dreamliner. While Airbus insists its prospects are good as demand for air travel increases, in 2006 it received fewer orders for new planes than its rival Boeing for the first time since 2000.
Airbus delayed announcement of job cuts earlier this month, following friction among its national partners, as politicians in the four countries lobbied to protect jobs. In recent years, the company's relationship with its parent company, Franco-German defense firm EADS, has been strained by political infighting and frequent management changes. The French government owns a 15% stake in EADS and has differed with other shareholders, including German car maker Daimler Chrysler. Until recently, Airbus had two chief executives, representing German and French shareholders.
Meanwhile, much of Paris is atwitter at the theft of two Pablo Picasso paintings with a combined worth of 50m euros. The paintings were stolen Monday night from Picasso's granddaughter's home in the 7th arrondissement.
Police said the paintings taken were a portrait of the Spanish painter's daughter, Maya with Doll and one of his second wife Jacqueline Roque. Maya Picasso was the painter's second child, born in 1935 to Marie-Therese Walter. Police said there was no evidence of a break-in at the home of Diana Widmaier-Picasso. The organised crime squad of the Paris police force is investigating the theft.