BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgian electronics company IPTE (IPTE.BR) reported a sharp drop in fourth-quarter earnings on Tuesday and said it would continue restructuring in readiness for a difficult 2009.

The financial crisis, followed by the economic crisis, is clearly having a more than average impact on the electronic sector in which IPTE operates, the group said in a statement.

IPTE made a net loss in the October-December period of 1.81 million euros ($2.29 million), against a profit of 4.17 million in the same period last year due to restructuring, foreign exchange losses and increased costs linked to expansion.

Sales for the fourth quarter dropped 15 percent to 58.2 million euros, with a 26 percent fall for IPTE's contract manufacturing division and an 18 percent rise for the automation division, which acquired Germany's Platzgummer GmbH. IPTE, which develops tests and production systems for printed circuit boards, said its order book stood at 78 million euros at the end of 2008, compared with 83 million euros at the end of 2007.

In November, the group announced restructuring of its automation unit to reduce costs by over 10 percent.

It has already cut more than 250 permanent and 150 temporary jobs. Reorganisation was on schedule and would continue in 2009, IPTE said.

The unclear market prospects require the company to do everything possible to secure its long-term health, IPTE said.

At the end of 2008, the group said it had met all its bank covenants and had sufficient credit facilities to continue to operate normally in 2009. (Reporting by Antonia van de Velde)