Magners cider producer C&C Group has announced plans to cut 18% of its workforce in its native Ireland, as the firm's sales continue to struggle.

C&C Group, which also owns Bulmers in Ireland, has said it plans to cut 120 jobs at its manufacturing plant in Clonmel, as part of a restructuring programme in Ireland to be complete by June 2009.

The move, which will also see the firm's Dublin operations merged into one office, was announced following a meeting with employees and union representatives. 

A spokesperson for the group, which employs 670 people, declined to put a figure on planned cost savings, but said more details will be available in the company's fourth quarter trading update, due 3 March.  

Investment broker Goldman Sachs last month cut its rating on C&C from buy to sell, after the firm reported a 13% drop in sales for its fiscal third quarter, ended 30 November, and said that the trend has continued into 2009.

One analyst told just-drinks that C&C would likely look to cut costs in an attempt to reinvigorate investor confidence in the short-term.

C&C chief operating officer Stephen Glancey said: "The group continues to face very difficult trading conditions in both its primary markets. This is compounded by continuing competitive pressure in the Group's core cider business and a loss of market share in both Ireland and Great Britain.

"While these decisions are deeply regrettable, they are essential to ensure that we improve our competitiveness in the face of current market challenges."

C&C Group cut 150 jobs in the 2007/08 financial year, ended February 2008, primarily due to falling sales in its cider division, which makes up around 80% of the firm's profit.