Computer manufacturer Dell refused to comment on reports that it may close its Limerick plant where 3,000 people work.

An article in The Wall Street Journal claimed the plant would be vulnerable if Dell decides to outsource manufacturing to cut costs.

The company is under pressure from a downturn in sales of its computers and laptops.

The article suggests the Limerick plant may be merged with a plant in Lotz, Poland, but no timeline could be given for such a move.

In a business statement issued yesterday, Dell notes that the slowdown in demand for its products is continuing.

The statement says the continued conservatism in IT spending in the US had extended into western Europe and several countries in Asia.

In a number of filings to the US Security and Exchange Commission, the company confirmed it continues to expand its use of external partnerships or outsourcing for manufacturing.

The company said it expects to incur costs as it realigns its business to improve competitiveness, reduce headcount, and invest in infrastructure and acquisitions.

The only recent change in its existing manufacturing operations was the closure of a desktop plant in Austin, Texas last March, with the loss of 900 jobs.

This morning, Limerick Chamber of Commerce President Sean Lally said that the business group did not want to make any comment that would add fire to the speculation.

He said Dell is a very important part of the economic fabric of Limerick and the region, and people should support the company when they come to buy their PCs.

Speaking at the announcement of a €30 million investment by IBM in Ireland, Tanaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade, and Employment Mary Coughlan also said it is very important that we do not speculate about these issues.

She said the IDA had been in touch with Dell on numerous occasions and is aware that from a global perspective a decision has been taken to re-evaluate Dell's global operations.

She added that the government would keep closely in contact with the company, but admitted she had not recently met with the company on the matter.

The Tanaiste did say that her predecessor in the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment, Michael Martin, went to see them and spoke to them about the issues before he became the Minister for Foreign Affairs.