ARQUES, France — For years, cheap energy helped turn Arc International into the world’s largest producer of glass tableware, and a vital employer in a working-class region of northern France.
But the impact of Russia’s abrupt cutoff of gas to Europe has doused the business with new risks. Energy prices have climbed so fast that Nicholas Hodler, Arc’s chief executive, has had to rewrite business forecasts six times in two months.
Recently, he put a third of Arc’s 4,500 employees on partial furlough to save money. Four of the factory’s nine furnaces will be idled; the others will be switched from natural gas to diesel, a cheaper but more polluting fuel.
“It’s the most dramatic situation we have ever encountered,” Mr. Hodler said, shouting to be heard over the din of clinking glasses on the factory floor. “For energy-intensive businesses like ours, it’s crippling.”
Arc is not alone. High energy prices are lashing European industry, forcing factories to cut production quickly and put tens of thousands of employees on furlough. The cutbacks, though expected to be temporary, are raising the risks of a painful recession in Europe. Industrial production in the euro area fell 2.3 percent in July from a year ago, the biggest drop in more than two years.