Japanese chemicals firm ISK is closing its facility here and cutting 195 workers.

The company, which produces titanium dioxide at its plant in Tuas West Drive, said the strong Singdollar and high operating costs have made its business in Singapore "challenging".

High feedstock prices and sluggish global demand have also impacted profitability, it said.

ISK Singapore could not respond by press time to queries on the profile of the employees retrenched and the compensation they were offered.

The company's titanium dioxide production activities will be consolidated at its plant in Yokkaichi, Japan.

Titanium dioxide is mainly used as a pigment and has a wide range of applications, from paint to sunscreen to food colouring.

According to the ISK Singapore website, 210 people are employed at the 192,000 sq m plant that was officially opened in 1989. It has a production capacity of 54,000 tonnes a year.

Mr Eugene Leong, director of energy and chemicals at the Economic Development Board, said companies like ISK review their operations regularly "to align them with their longer-term plans and needs".

He added that the decision "was made after careful consideration", and the agency is working with ISK and employee trade unions to assist affected staff.

Despite ISK's move, Mr Leong said the outlook for the chemicals industry stays upbeat.

"With the growing demand for chemicals products in Asia, reflected by the record investments secured last year, we remain optimistic about the outlook for Singapore's chemicals sector, and confident of the good jobs it creates for Singaporeans."

Bank of America Merrill Lynch economist Chua Hak Bin said that it is still unclear whether this was an isolated incident, or a sign of a broader slowdown in the Singapore manufacturing industry.

The industry "has been having a hard time" due to the strong local currency, rising business costs and stricter foreign worker policy, he said.

"Businesses come and go, but this might raise the concern of whether or not manufacturing seems to be facing hollowing- out pressures."