Banta Corp. has begun a reorganization program that is expected to result in annual savings of $18 million to $20 million, beginning in 2000. Under the restructuring, Banta will eliminate 650 positions, about 9% of its 7000 employees.

The restructuring will result in the closing of three facilities: a prepress plant in Charlotte, N.C.; a mailing and fulfillment center in Berkeley, Ill.; and a printing plant in Kent, Wash. The closings will cut 350 jobs. Another 300 positions will be eliminated at various locations throughout the corporation, affecting both salaried and hourly employees. Banta reported that the reductions will occur through attrition and retirements wherever possible. To account for the restructuring, the company expects to take a pretax charge of $50 million to $55 million in the second quarter.

Banta chairman Donald Belcher said the reorganization was one element of a three-part program to improve profitability. The two other initiatives involve speeding up the company's acquisition program, with the objective of increasing its market share in its core areas of printing and health care. Banta will also increase investment in its digital technology products.

The restructuring follows a year in which Banta reported record revenues of $1.33 billion and earnings of $52.9 million.

During 1998, revenues from Banta's book printing division rose 3%, to $290 million. Banta reported that the increase in the book group was due to increased trade book activity, which offset lower sales from its textbook printing operation.