A CIGARETTE maker is axing more than 500 jobs after announcing plans to end UK manufacturing.

Imperial Tobacco says it will close its factory in Nottingham, with the loss of up to 540 posts.

The company, which employs 1,700 UK staff, said the plant is capable of making 36 billion cigarettes a year, but is only expected to produce 17 billion in 2014.

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Bosses said the closure will take place over the next two years, and it will look to re-deploy some staff.

It is also shutting a site in Nantes, France, where 320 people are employed.

The company blamed declining industry volumes in Europe and the growth in illicit trade for the move.

Alison Cooper, chief executive, said the restructuring was part of a drive to save £300m a year from September 2018.

She said: “The prospect of job losses is always regrettable and we will be doing all we can to support employees.”

Imperial dates back to 1877 when John Player bought a small tobacco making business.

Its brands include Lambert and Butler, Gauloises and Rizla.