GSK refutes reports the ax is about to fall on jobs in China

GlaxoSmithKline's China headquarters--Courtesy of GSK

GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) is struggling to grow sales post-China bribery scandal, cutting jobs in the U.S. while focusing on a long-term overhaul to manufacturing and R&D to chart some upward momentum. The company was said to be exploring job cuts in China to deliver a much-needed boost to its bottom line, but GSK is refuting those reports, saying instead it will be hiring there as it builds its business.

"We're not reducing the size of our team. In fact, we will need to hire more people in order to meet the needs of our future business," GSK spokeswoman Mary Anne Rhyne told FiercePharma in an email. "GSK has a long term commitment to China and we are continuing to refine our portfolio so that we focus on areas where we can truly make a difference to China and the Chinese healthcare sector."

The company was responding to a report in the Chinese newspaper Caixin that reported the British drugmaker planned to lay off about 1,000 people this year, axing 450 jobs during the first quarter and eliminating more positions in Q2 2015. The report was said to have been confirmed by half a dozen sources.

There is no question that GSK is cutting in the U.S. The drugmaker unveiled plans last month to slash 900 sales and R&D jobs in light of declining sales for asthma behemoth Advair. The company said it would cut 350 jobs during the first quarter of 2015 with another 450 chopped in Q2 and the rest later this year. The cuts are part of a global restructuring plan that the company announced with its Q3 earnings, and will mainly affect jobs at the company's facility in Research Triangle Park, NC, which concentrates on R&D for respiratory drugs. The broader restructuring will also include the transfer of several thousand employees from Novartis ($NVS) to GSK as part of the company's pending three-part asset swap, Rhyne told FiercePharma. GSK expects to close the deal in the first half of 2015.

Meanwhile, other drugmakers are exploring strategic changes in China in the wake of GSK's bribery scandal. In December, Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) said it would cut hundreds from its payroll in the country, "reviewing and determining the appropriate structure and size of the organization with the objective to best serve our patients in China," the company said at the time. BMS did not give specific details about the cuts, but said it remained committed to long-term operations in the country.

- read the Caixin story

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