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Lifeline for ailing French shipyard

PARIS: Officials hailed some rare good news for France's struggling economy yesterday after an ailing shipyard landed a billion-euro contract to build a luxury liner for a US cruise company.

The deal comes as a lifeline to the STX France shipyard at Saint-Nazaire on the Atlantic coast, which had struggled to secure major new orders in recent years.

"It's a nice Christmas present, that's for sure, because it will allow us to have work and save jobs," a worker in the plant's painting department said.

Miami-based Royal Caribbean International said it was ordering a sister ship to its two top-of-the-line cruise liners, the Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, to be delivered in mid-2016, with an option on a second vessel in mid-2018.

Officials said the contract was worth in excess of one billion euros ($1.3bn) and would represent more than 10 million hours in work over three years for the shipyard and its sub-contractors.

Following a slew of recent announcements of job cuts, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said the contract was a sign that France's industrial sector was recovering.

"France is showing its capacity to win the battle for the recovery of its industry and exports," he said, praising "the excellence of French know-how in naval construction".

"We are very happy with this order," STX France chief executive Laurent Castaing said, noting that competition with STX's branch in Finland for the contract had been "fierce". he added.

He said state help had been vital in securing the contract but that the government had provided no direct financial assistance. He said the company hoped to begin hiring technicians and engineers very quickly.



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