It won't be easy, and it won't be pretty. But it is possible for Peregrine Inc., the supplier founded just over a year ago through the purchase of four General Motors Delphi Automotive Systems plants, to recover from the brink of bankruptcy.

In fact, Jay Alix, the turnaround specialist who bought Peregrine earlier this year, says his restructuring plan could have the company on the path to profitability by the end of 1999.

How does he get there with a company that owes creditors $85 million and was on track to lose more than $100 million this year? By cutting Peregrine's work force in half (from 4,600 to 2,300), closing two antiquated plants and leaving the fiercely competitive interiors business by selling a Windsor, Ont., seat plant. Lear Corp., which is buying Delphi's seating business, is among potential buyers.

Later this year, Peregrine will close a stamping plant in Flint, MI, and a door trim plant in Livonia, MI. Together, the plants lost $40 million in 1997. The machinery is old, and Mr. Alix says it's not worth replacing.

The plants employ about 1,200 people, but most are expected to go back to work for GM, which they can do under the 1996 labor agreement between GM and the United Auto Workers union. In all, about 150 jobs are expected to be lost.

Mr. Alix's potent medicine may get Peregrine back on its feet, but it will be harder for GM to make job security promises when Delphi is spun off next year. Still, Mr. Alix says Peregrine's future can't be held hostage to GM's labor relations.

After the restructuring, only one original Delphi plant will remain within Peregrine - a bumper fascia and stamping plant in Oshawa, Ont. Peregrine also will retain four factories in Battle Creek and Warren, MI, that were acquired from MSI Manufacturing Group Inc. in June 1997. Peregrine's main products will be metal stampings.

In recent years, Mr. Alix has turned around AP Automotive Systems (exhaust systems), Tube Products (exhaust systems) and National Car Rental, a former GM subsidiary.