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Local Tech Wire

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — Mobile phone handset maker Sony Ericsson announced Wednesday that it will close its operation in Research Triangle Park, eliminating 420 jobs.

Officials didn’t provide a date for the closure of the plant, which serves as its North American headquarters and is part of research operation. They did say they also are closing operations in Seattle; Miami; San Diego; Kista, Sweden; and Chennai, India.

Sony Ericsson will move its U.S. headquarters to Atlanta, and its R&D unit will be shifted to California, officials said during an employee meeting Wednesday morning.

Officials said some people will be offered jobs at the new sites, but it was unclear how many would be able to move. State officials did not know about the announcement in advance.

"At the end of the day, we have to keep creating and keeping our jobs here," Gov. Beverly Perdue said. "I can’t afford to lose companies – none of us can – and we have to work harder and more aggressively on creating jobs."

The shutdown is the latest blow for the joint venture between Swedish communications company LM Ericsson and Japanese electronics giant Sony. A year ago, it eliminated 450 RTP jobs as part of 2,000 layoffs companywide.

The current round of cuts also is expected to be about 2,000 companywide, officials said.

"This cost reduction program is to increase efficiency company-wide and help us remain agile," spokeswoman Stacy Doster said.

Sony Ericsson lost $245 million in the quarter that ended Sept. 30, as its sales fell more than 40 percent, to $2.4 billion. Still, the company was able to line up $676 million in financing to strengthen its balance sheet.

Doster said Atlanta was chosen in part because of its proximity to AT&T Inc., one of the company’s largest customers. She also said the city is desirable as a "gateway into Latin America" because of its international connections through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.