Nestle Waters France is planning to make sizeable cuts in its workforce amid fierce competition in the water sector.

The company has confirmed a programme of shedding almost 750 staff by 2007. This will be done through an early retirement scheme which will target workers in the 57+ age bracket.

Nestle's French unit employs a total of almost 4,200 staff.

The cuts will affect jobs at the company's headquarters and at its three bottling plants at Vergeze, in southern France and famous for the Perrier brand, Vittel and Contrexville in the east of the country.

Nestle Waters France president, Richard Girardot, said the company, which has a 25% share of the French water market, is currently adjusting its operating structures within the framework of a relaunch plan.

Last year it strengthened its presence in the HOD market in acquiring a 33% stake in Saphir which markets the Opalia brand. The purchase allowed the company to extend its coverage to the whole of France.