Seagate is to close its hard disk drive platter-producing factory at Limavady, N. Ireland, with the loss of nearly 1,000 jobs.

Production will be shifted to Malaysia where there is capacity and labour costs are cheaper. This will also lower Seagate's foreign exchange and shipping costs.

The nearby Seagate plant at Springtown, employing 1,381 workers, is not affected. Seagate opened its substrate-producing plant at Limavady, near Londonderry, in July 1997.

It's estimated by people familiar with the situation that Seagate has received around £100 million in various grants aimed at encouraging employment in the province. In 2005 it announced a £38 million investment in the two N. Ireland plants and the creation of 300 jobs. Invest IT granted £25 million towards this, cash that it will now want returned.

No doubt costs such as this are factored in to Seagate's calculations.

The company has said that the Limavady plant is no longer competitive in global terms.

The Limavady mayor has said the closure will be devastating for workers as it is now so close to Christmas.

For Northern Ireland, Seagate is a blue-ribband employer and high-tech industrial presence, and the plant closure is being seen as a serious blow to the province, struggling to strengthen its economy after years of conflict.

Seagate is being very generous with redundancy, offering up to six times the statutory minimum pay-off.