Molex Ireland has said it intends to close its facility in Shannon, Co Clare by the end of next year, subject to an employee consultation process.

The move will result in the loss of up to 500 jobs.

The firm said the closure is expected to take place in a series of phases, starting in early 2020.

It said the decision follows a review of the product lines manufactured there.

It added that the majority of products made at the Shannon facility have insufficient financial returns and growth potential.

As a result, these products will either be "exited or divested", with any remaining products transferred to other Molex facilities.

Molex said the decision was a very difficult one due to its impact on employees and the deep ties it has with the region and its people. 

"The decision in no way reflects on our Shannon employees, who have made an invaluable contribution to our business over many years," it said in a statement.

The US firm said it is now focusing its efforts on engaging with employees.

It said it would provide a comprehensive programme of supports to help them with the transition ahead. 

The US multinational makes a range of electronic components for use in a variety of industries. These include data communications, consumer electronics, industrial, automotive, commercial vehicle and medical.

The company has been operating in the Shannon Free Zone since 1971 and is one of the largest employers in the area.

Molex Ireland's parent, Molex Incorporated, is based in Illinois in the US.

It was bought six years ago by US conglomerate Koch Industries for $7.2bn.

Ten years ago, the company laid off around 100 people in Shannon and cut pay by around 5%, as a result of a sharp fall in demand for its products.

Molex staff were informed of the decision at a meeting today

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys said: "I am bitterly disappointed by today's news. My immediate thoughts are with the workers and their families at what is a very difficult time for them and for the wider Shannon area. I fully appreciate how important large-scale employers like this are to regional areas, which makes this company closure all the more difficult.

"The Government will be doing everything possible, starting today, to assist those workers impacted by this closure."

IDA Ireland Executive Director Mary Buckley said: "Over the years, we have worked with the company to secure continued investment. Unfortunately, the outcome global strategic review by the parent company has led to the announcement of the Shannon operation closure in 2020."

Mayor of Clare, Councillor Cathal Crowe said the Molex Ireland factory is not the only one in the region to face closure in the coming months causing significant impact to employment.

Speaking on RTÉ's Six One, he called on the Government to set up a task force to avail of what he said is a huge opportunity to be exploited for a region that has its own international airport.

Helen Downes from Shannon Chamber of Commerce told the same programme that she would expect the Government, the IDA and local agencies such as Shannon Commercial Properties to be collaborating to ensure that employment opportunities are gained for the talent that will be leaving the Molex facility.