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The world-renowned Cirque du Soleil entertainment troupe is laying off 400 people - most of them at its Montreal headquarters.

A company spokeswoman announced the layoffs on Wednesday after Cirque executives met with employees in Montreal.

Increased production costs and expenses are being blamed for the layoffs, which will begin by the end of the month.

The Cirque employs about 5000 people worldwide, including 2000 in Montreal.

It still has 19 productions of its hugely successful circus arts and street entertainment brand being presented worldwide and is working on a new show that will open in May in Las Vegas.

Another touring production that will open in the spring of 2014 in Montreal is also planned.

But four shows besides the 19 that are still on stage have closed recently.