updated 1/27/2004 4:54:25 PM ET 2004-01-27T21:54:25

Kraft Foods Inc. said Tuesday it will eliminate 6,000 jobs, or 6 percent of its work force, and close 20 plants worldwide as part of a restructuring that follows more than a year of disappointing sales and earnings for the biggest U.S. food company.

About 1,300 salaried positions in North America will be eliminated in the first quarter, with the remaining cuts occurring over the next three years, Kraft said.

The moves were disclosed in Kraft's fourth-quarter earnings release Tuesday afternoon. Net income of $869 million represented a 7 percent drop from a year earlier _ the company's latest earnings disappointment.

The reductions have been expected since began the Northfield, Ill.-based company shook up its top management last month and announced other changes after several quarters of sluggish sales, particularly for cookies and pizza.

Chief executive Roger Deromedi, who was given sole control of the company last month when co-CEO Betsy Holden was removed from that post and put in charge of global marketing, had signaled his intent to take Kraft in a different direction to try to snap out of the slump in sales and new products.

On Jan. 8, he reorganized Kraft's business units and said it would be taking a more global focus in a strategy aimed at making it more nimble. That move entailed shifting some units to new locations and giving top executives new roles. The job cuts associated with the shake-up were not disclosed until Tuesday.

Kraft has about 50,000 employees in the United States and slightly more than 100,000 worldwide.

The company's brands include Oreo cookies, Jell-O desserts and Oscar Mayer hot dogs.

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