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Ford to retain 1,000 jobs at French plant after deal

BLANQUEFORT, France (Reuters) - Car maker Ford will retain 1,000 jobs at a plant in southwest France after striking a deal on Friday with local authorities to share the burden of new investments needed to keep the factory operating.

Under the deal, Ford is to invest 125 million euros ($162 million) and local authorities 12.5 million to produce a next-generation gearbox for compact cars in Europe, in exchange for guarantees to retain workers for five years.

Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg, known for having berated French carmaker PSA Peugeot Citroen in public over its plans to cut 8,000 staff, hailed the deal and said he would make sure it was enforced to the letter.

The plant in Blanquefort, near Bordeaux, currently employs about 1,200 workers, only 300 of whom are actively employed. The remainder of the workers receive a pay check and come to work but have no activity in the plant.

Previously, the factory produced components for old-model Ford cars in the United States, but it has been reducing its production for years as the cars were junked. Its work force has shrunk from a high of 3,000 in the 1970s.

Ford sold the plant in 2009 to German investment company HZ Holding, which intended to use it to build windmill parts. That deal fell apart when HZ Holding's industrial partner pulled out, and Ford bought its factory back in early 2011.

($1 = 0.7734 euros)

(Reporting by Claude Canellas; Writing by Nick Vinocur; Editing by Mark Potter)

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