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Britain Finds Success In Attracting Foreign High-Tech Investment

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BRITAIN is set to become Europe's leading high-technology manufacturing center.

That is the view of government officials and independent analysts as they appraise a series of large industrial investments made by foreign companies in the United Kingdom this year.

The biggest high-tech investment so far, announced on Aug. 4 by the German electronics group Siemens, is a 1 billion (US$1.53 billion) semiconductor manufacturing and research plant near Newcastle-upon-Tyne in England's northeast. The plant will eventually create about 2,000 jobs in an area of high unemployment, a Siemens representative said.

The Siemens venture follows investment moves in the past 12 months by Japan's NEC electronics group; Samsung, the Korean chipmaker; and Jaguar, the carmaker, now owned by Ford.

All have decided to establish or expand factories in Britain, where wage rates tend to be low and government inducements for overseas companies to invest can be generous. Together the Siemens, Samsung, and Jaguar investments are expected to create about 10,000 new jobs.

Close in the wake of Siemens, the Japanese computer company Fujitsu announced plans last week to build a microchip plant, also in the northeast.

Two days later the German electronics company Grundig said it was switching production of satellite receivers from Germany to a factory in Wales.

Officials applaud decision

Welcoming the Siemens move, Michael Heseltine, Britain's deputy prime minister, said the decision to build a plant in the area known as Tyneside was ''welcome news and a vindication of the government's flexible employment strategy.''

He added: ''Britain is leading Europe out of recession. We now see ourselves as the enterprise center of Europe.''

Claims by Mr. Heseltine that Britain is ''beginning a second industrial revolution'' may be somewhat bloated, but figures published by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) suggest the country is now regarded by foreign companies as a prime investment venue. The DTI says the United Kingdom is attracting 40 percent of all United States and Japanese investment in the 15-nation European Union.

Analysts ascribe Britain's attraction to a combination of factors: the weakness of the pound sterling against the German mark and the Japanese yen, relatively low wage rates, and government-financed ''sweeteners'' offered to likely investors.


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