British textiles firm Coats Plc has announced that it is to close more US and European factories as part of an ongoing £50 million ($71m) restructuring exercise.

"We are not at this stage identifying the factories that will be reducing or closing, but we clearly will be employing fewer people in Europe and the United States," chief executive Martin Flower told reporters after announcing the company's annual results.

Coats, which employs 37,000 people worldwide, last year retrenched its operations in the United States and Europe but opened new factories in China, Romania and the Dominican Republic.

The company on Wednesday said operating profit from continuing operations fell to £68.8 million from £95.2 million a year earlier, reflecting "an unprecedented fall in demand from the US apparel industry and general economic weakness around the globe." 2001 pre-tax profit was £23 million against a £31.1 million loss from the year before which included a restructuring charge.

Turnover at continuing businesses fell four per cent to 1.21 billion pounds in the 12 months to end-December, Coats said.

Looking ahead, the company said: "In the short term, much depends on the speed of recovery in US thread demand although stock pipelines are relatively empty."

Analysts' forecasts for current year 2002 pretax profit stand at around £53 million.