Twinkies maker plans to go out of business

Hostess Brands Inc. has gone to court to close its businesses.

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NEW YORK - Hostess Brands Inc, the bankrupt maker of Twinkies and Wonder Bread, has sought a U.S. court's permission to go out of business after failing to get wage and benefit cuts from thousands of its striking bakery workers.

Hostess, which has about $2.5 billion (R22 billion) in sales from a long list of snack cakes and breads, filed the request with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York early Friday morning.

The Irving, Texas-based company said the liquidation would mean that most of its 18,500 employees would lose their jobs.

Hostess immediately suspended operations at all of its 33 plants across the United States as it moves to start liquidating assets, it said.

"We'll be selling the brands and as much of the infrastructure as we can," said company spokesman Lance Ignon. "There is value in the brands. But some bakeries will never open again as bakeries."

Ignon said the company was making final deliveries on Friday of products made Thursday night. Hostess's top-selling products are its chocolate cupcakes, cream-filled Twinkies cakes and its powdered sugar and frosted "Donettes."

Entrepreneurs on auction site eBay are asking as much as $100 for a box of 10 Twinkies - plus $5 shipping - according to one listing that went up shortly after the company's liquidation filing. "Soon To Be Gone Forever," the listing reads.

Hostess blamed burdensome wage and pension obligations for its financial woes. It said a strike by members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union, which began last week, was the latest of a series of labor troubles that had crippled the company's ability to produce and deliver products at several facilities.

A few workers were still walking picket lines early Friday morning, many expressing hope that some of the Hostess operations might survive. They blamed what they characterized as "Wall Street" management for the company's demise.

"The people who are running this company are not interested in making bread," said Roger Harrison, 56, who bags buns at the Hostess plant in Lenexa, Kansas, and has been with the company for 35 years.

"They are not in the baking industry; they are just interested in the money," said Harrison, 56. "This company is so unstable that once they close, maybe someone can take over and buy it and give us more stability."

Union President Frank Hurt said management was trying to make union workers the scapegoats for a long-held plan by Wall Street investors to break up Hostess.

Hostess had given employees a deadline to return to work on Thursday, but the union held firm, saying it had already given far more in concessions than workers could bear and that it would not bend further.

The company was asking workers to agree to an 8 percent pay cut, a 20 percent increase in healthcare costs, closure of 10 to 12 plants and changes to pension and workday provisions.

Hostess managers have complained that terms of many of the 300 labor contracts that the company has in place have bogged down its ability to be both nimble and cost-competitive.

"The union has been the death of this company," said a human resources manager who recently left Hostess.