The future of around 1,600 UK jobs has been thrown into doubt after the owner of Andrex toilet tissue and Huggies nappies unveiled a swingeing cost-cutting drive.
Kimberly-Clark plans to slash between 5,000 and 5,500 roles from its 43,000-strong global workforce, the equivalent of 12% to 13% of total staff.
The Texas-based personal care giant has three UK manufacturing sites in Barrow-in-Furness, Flint and Northfleet, as well as offices in Reigate, West Malling and Brighton.
The move will hit “all of the company’s business segments and organisations in each major geography”, with 10 manufacturing plants earmarked for sale or closure.
The group is eyeing annual cost savings of 500 million US dollars (£357 million) to 550 million US dollars (£393 million) by 2021.
Chairman and chief executive Thomas Falk said the restructuring plan will put the group on track to reach its long-term growth targets.
He said: “This is the biggest restructuring we have undertaken since the introduction of our Global Business Plan in 2003, and it will make our company leaner, stronger and faster.
“The changes we are making will improve our underlying profitability, provide more flexibility to invest in growth opportunities and help us compete even more effectively.”
Kimberly-Clark, which also owns household names such as Pull-Ups and Kleenex, is attempting to revive flagging sales in the face of slowing demand and higher input costs.
The near 150-year-old business made the cost-savings announcement alongside its annual results, with operating profits slipping by 1% to 3.29 billion US dollars (£2.35 billion) for the 12 months to December 31.
Sales picked up marginally to 18.3 billion US dollars (£13.1 billion), up from 18.2 billion US dollars (£13 billion), despite coming under pressure from lower selling prices.
Mr Falk added: “Although we expect market conditions will remain challenging in the near-term, we plan to deliver better results in 2018 while we begin to implement our new restructuring.
“We expect organic sales to return to growth while improving our margins and delivering double-digit growth in adjusted earnings per share.”
The group has a cost savings target of more than 1.5 billion US dollars (£1.1 billion) between 2018 and 2021.