Dow Chemical

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is shutting down a number of plants around the world in a bid to improve the competitiveness of its global operations and eventually save $160 million a year.

Because of the shutdowns, Dow expects to incur a charge in the range of $550 million to $650 million for severance and asset write-downs in the third quarter. The most significant closings will take place at Dow's facilities in Sarnia and Fort Saskatchewan, Canada, and at the Porto Marghera plant in Italy.

In Sarnia, all production will stop by the end of 2008, and at Fort Saskatchewan, Dow will close its chloralkali and direct chlorination ethylene dichloride plants by the end of October. For the Italian operation, the company decided not to restart production at the toluene diisocyanate facility, which was closed for maintenance in early August.

During the past three years, Dow has shut down more than 50 manufacturing facilities across the globe.