Novartis whacks 500 old-line jobs in Switzerland but adds 350 in 'high tech'

Novartis HQ
Swiss drugmaker Novartis is cutting 500 obsolete positions in and around its Basel headquarters over the next 18 months but said it will add 350 positions in more innovative areas.

It's out with the old and in with the new as Swiss drugmaker Novartis slashes hundreds of jobs in areas like “traditional manufacturing” in and around its Basel headquarters over the next 18 months and adds jobs in high tech areas like biologics production.

In an emailed statement, the drugmaker reiterated its commitment to its home country even as it announced Thursday that it intended to eliminate 500 jobs in traditional manufacturing, coordination and development operations positions in the Basel area over the next year and a half, while adding 350 high-tech positions in “development and innovative biologics manufacturing.”

The cuts include plans to close production sites in Basel and at the Schweizerhalle industrial complex in canton Basel, according to Swissinfo, which reported some jobs are being transferred to India.

RELATED: Novartis slashing thousands more jobs in global reorganization, shifting many to India

The company said the moves are part of the “ongoing global transformation” tied to a decision made last year to strengthen innovation and enhance quality and efficiency worldwide, but it is a process that has been going on longer than that for Novartis and the second time in recent years for it to do major revamp of jobs in Switzerland.  

In 2014, after CEO Joe Jimenez pronounced his dissatisfaction with the company's operating margins, the company said that it would cut 500 jobs in Switzerland from R&D and administrative functions while hiring another 500 or so Swiss workers for different positions in the pharma business, as well as generic drugs and over-the-counter products. Some of those jobs lost in Switzerland were shifted to an administrative services site in India that opened in 2015.

RELATED: Novartis to move R&D tropical disease base out of Singapore, cut Zurich, Shanghai jobs

Last year, as its finances continued to lag, Jimenez took aim at R&D. Among other shifts and cuts, it announced plans to move its Singapore research base for dengue fever and malaria over to California, and to reduce headcount at its Zurich facility and its China biologics group.

All of this cutting, nipping and tucking may be paying off for the company. It turned in some surprisingly good numbers in the first quarter, leading some analysts to speculate publicly that it might have gotten past the worst of its problems. In the quarter, it saw sales out of its generics operation Sandoz and its struggling Alcon eye unit, but new drugs like psoriasis-fighter Cosentyx and heart failure med Entresto helped the company exceed revenue expectations at $11.54 billion. Core EPS also beat, at $1.13 to the Street’s $1.11.

RELATED: Novartis laggards Entresto, Alcon step up to help keep Q1 sales in line