U.S. Firm Buying Waterford Wedgwood

Administrators for collapsed china and glassware maker Waterford Wedgwood PLC said Friday that New York-based KPS Capital Partners will buy the company.

DUBLIN (AP) -- Administrators for collapsed china and glassware maker Waterford Wedgwood PLC said Friday that an American private equity firm has agreed a deal to buy the company.

The New York-based KPS Capital Partners has agreed an undisclosed deal for the firm, which was formed by an amalgamation of a pottery factory in central England and a crystal factory in southeast Ireland. Administrator Angus Martin said he expects the deal to be finalized next month.

Waterford Wedgwood employs around 7,700 people worldwide, including around 1,500 in Britain and 210 in Ireland, but became the latest iconic European company to succumb to the global economic slowdown and credit squeeze.

It thrived throughout the 1990s, but the luxury wares retailer saw its income shrunk by the decline of the U.S. dollar -- Americans traditionally account for half of all Waterford sales -- cheaper competition in Eastern Europe and Asia, and demand for more durable, dishwasher-safe tableware.

Wedgwood has been an iconic name in British pottery for 250 years, after its founder Josiah Wedgwood opened the first factory in Stoke-on-Trent, England, in 1759, while Waterford Crystal traces its lineage to a factory opened in Waterford, southeast Ireland in 1783.

Waterford acquired Wedgwood in 1986 to form the present company, listing on the stock exchange and expanding overseas in the 1990s before buying fellow Stoke-on-Trent ceramics maker Royal Doulton in 2005.

The business has now mainly shifted offshore, where it employs 5,800 people, including 1,500 people at a plant in Jakarta, Indonesia, which produces most of the company's ceramics. Most crystal production is handed by Eastern European subcontractors.

Deloitte said that the deal with KPS was conditional on acquiring Waterford Wedgwood's assets overseas.

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