ELECTRONICS company LG Philips Displays last night confirmed the worst fears of staff by announcing its Wearside plant is to close with the loss of 120 jobs.

The company said the decision to shut the 32-year-old plant in Washington had been taken with great regret, but it was necessary to remain competitive in the face of global price pressures.

It would not affect the future of LG Philips TV cathode ray tube factory in Durham, which employs 800 staff.

Last year it was announced that the production of deflection yokes - devices that fit to the back of television tubes to create a picture on the screen - was to be transferred from Washington to Namestovo in the Slovak Republic, with the loss of 300 jobs.

It was hoped the remaining staff, who will leave the Washington site by the end of October, would be able to create a centre of excellence in research and product development.

But the company said this had not proved to be sufficiently cost competitive.

Plant director Tim O'Leary said: "We have an excellent team here at Washington but it has just not been possible to be as cost efficient as we need to be in an extremely competitive world market."

LG Philips said competence centre activities at Washington would be consolidated in Eindhoven, in the Netherlands, where teams design the whole range of the company's TV display components.

This would result in savings on building costs and overheads.

Staff were informed of the closure during a meeting with bosses yesterday afternoon.

Earlier this week, the Amicus union said it believed the decision to close had already been taken.

Regional organiser Carol McFarlane said: "The workforce has been waiting for this announcement, which was met with a mixture of relief and disappointment.

"Everybody realised that we could not sustain the sort of business originally anticipated."

Mrs McFarlane said it was hoped opportunities would be available for some staff to transfer to either Eindhoven or Durham.

The Durham plant has been the focus of job fears with the union claiming to have seen a confidential document that put its future in doubt.

An LG Philips spokesman said the decision to close Washington did not affect Durham as they were separate operations.

The spokesman said he could not give guarantees over Durham's future.

The spokesman added: "Performance is being reviewed at Durham, as it is at all of our plants.

"We have introduced new products there and there has been some very significant investment over the past few years.

"We are continuing to work hard to compete in a very price sensitive market."