Dell debates major expansion in Ireland


Dell computers is expected to announce a major expansion of its operations in Ireland very soon, resulting in the creation of significant numbers of new jobs.

The company is believed to have drawn up an expansion plan envisaging a tripling of revenue from its European operations.

This will mean extra jobs at its plant in Limerick, where 1,800 people are already employed.

Some sources have suggested that Dell may purchase the AST plant in Limerick, where the jobs of 400 workers are currently under threat.

While a spokeswoman for the Irish arm of the company refused to comment last night, some sources have suggested that as many as 1,500 to 2,000 jobs might be created as part of the expansion.

Dell manufactures and sells PCs direct to the customer and is regarded by IDA Ireland as one of the most successful American computer firms based in the Republic.

A spokeswoman in Dell's European headquarters in Britain said that discussions on a major expansion were taking place with the IDA, but she would not comment further.

It is believed negotiations have been taking place for several months but there has been uncertainty about whether all the jobs will go to the Republic. Some staff at the plant in Limerick said yesterday they were aware of the planned expansion, but did not know how many jobs were likely to follow.

Dell employs a further 450 people at a sales and support facility in Bray, Co Wicklow and this would be likely to rise if the manufacturing plant in Limerick was expanded.

Production at the manufacturing plant in the Raheen Industrial Estate began in 1991 and the company has more than doubled the space there since then. It has also built a 10,000 sq m facility nearby.

The AST plant is close to Raheen site and would provide a considerable amount of extra space for Dell.

It is understood the IDA is anxious to include the AST factory as part of the deal, although it is not known if Dell has agreed to the proposal at this stage.

Many of AST's workers are known to have applied already for jobs with Dell, after 140 of them were told by management in December they were being laid off under a review ordered by the Korean parent company, Samsung.

Late last year, a Dell spokesman said Ireland continued to be the engine room for its European operations. He added that it was the company's aim to continue driving sales growth in Europe from Ireland.

Dell recently became the second largest computer firm in the United States, when net income for the year rose 71 per cent to $248 million (£182 million).

The company has continued to grow at more than three times the industry rate on a unit shipments basis.

There has also been impressive growth in the company's European operations in recent years with revenue going from $952 million in 1995 to $2.005 billion last year.