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Germany’s CargoLifter Lays Off 200

August 12, 2002

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BERLIN (AP) _ Bankrupt German airship builder CargoLifter AG laid off 200 workers after the government decided not to help it raise money for a rescue plan.

The court-appointed bankruptcy administrator had asked the government for credit or loan guarantees worth 40 million euros ($38.9 million) as part of a rescue package, but when that was turned down the company was forced to let the bulk of its remaining staff go.

Only 30 people kept their jobs, said Rolf-Dieter Moenning after a board meeting late Monday. The staff originally numbered 450 workers.

The government’s refusal could signal the beginning of the company’s demise. CargoLifter, in a nod to the past, had sought to develop modern versions of the Zeppelin to move bulky cargo like turbines and oil rigs across long distances.

The heavily subsidized company never built one of the large airships.

CargoLifter failed ``to correct the mistakes made by the earlier leadership and to win over potential users of the technology for further engagement with CargoLifter,″ the Finance Ministry said in a statement.

The company had failed to find a partner to keep it alive or to present ``reliable evidence about the marketing of the product and corresponding information about the long-term profitability of the company,″ the statement said.

Completing the development of the airship, which would have been able to lift 160 metric tons, would cost as much as 290 million euros ($282 million), the ministry said.

CargoLifter filed for bankruptcy in June, weeks after saying it was out of money. The company had been heavily subsidized to create jobs in the economically depressed eastern state of Brandenburg and unveiled a huge hangar for the production of airships in November, 2000.

In its search for a partner, the company and aerospace giant Boeing Co. said last month they would explore the development of sophisticated, high-altitude blimps for use in U.S. homeland security defenses.

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