FIRM MOVING VCR ASSEMBLY TO THAILAND

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SINGAPORE — Thomson Multimedia, the consumer electronics arm of Paris-based Thomson SA, will shut down its assembly lines for videocassette recorders in Singapore by the end of the year, and transfer production to its plant in Thailand.

The company manufactures VCRs in Singapore through a joint venture, International Video Products, with Toshiba Corp. of Tokyo. Thomson owns a 51 percent stake in the venture, Toshiba holds the remaining interest.

IVP outsources all its plastic processing operations, including molding of video recorder frames and front panels, and production of packaging accessories such as polyethylene bags and foam.

The plant closure comes on top of six shutdowns planned in Malaysia, Germany, Canada and the United States, with a loss of up to 10,000 employees, according to industry sources.

Officials for Thomson and IVP declined to comment.

The joint venture currently makes fewer than 2 million VCRs a year for Thomson under the brand names Telefunken, Ferguson, GE, Saba, RCA, Proscan, PAL/M and Thomson.

Production of some models will move to Thailand by May, with others following by year's end, according to employees at Thomson Multimedia and IVP.

Thomson started moving its assembly lines from Singapore to Thailand early last year. Its Thai plant currently produces 2 million television sets a year. All plastics processing is handled by outside vendors.

Toshiba will continue making its own brand of video recorders, and will most likely take over Thomson's stake in IVP, according to a source at IVP's personnel department.

Plastic processors in Singapore are generally not surprised by IVP's move.

``IVP started scaling down its operations a few years ago,'' said Ronald Lim, managing director of Ryohin Pte. Ltd., which supplies packaging material to IVP.

``In the recent year, it has reduced its production tremendously in Singapore ... it's now just a small quantity,'' Lim said.

Thomson decided to shift its Asian production base to Thailand because of lower wages and juicy tax breaks there, industry sources say. The plastics industry here has followed suit.

``It's hard to hire skilled workers in Singapore's plastics industry,'' said Choo Kim Teng, second vice president of the Singapore Plastic Industry Association.

``If it's not high-tech plastic processing, it is going to move to places like Thailand and China,'' said Choo.

Last month, Thomson announced that it was moving all its television assembly operations in the United States to a new plant in Mexico.

Thomson has begun a worldwide cost-cutting program to pull the ailing company back into the black, after a plan to sell its consumer electronics arm to South Korean conglomerate Daewoo Electronics Co. last year fell apart.

In October, the chairman of Daewoo Electronics, Bae Soon-Hoon, told reporters that his company would close down Thomson's operations at IVP if the takeover was successful.

Thomson Multimedia on March 6 announced a net loss of 3.13 billion French francs ($548 million) for 1996, up from a loss of FFr 1.09 billion ($191 million) a year earlier. Sales rose 3.6 percent to FFr 37.8 billion ($6.62 billion).