AstraZeneca to build £120 million U.K. plant

AstraZeneca's ($AZN) prostate cancer drug Zoladex has been around for more than 25 years, but the blockbuster remains among the drugmaker's top products. Spurred by sales in emerging markets, the company decided it needs more production capacity, so it will spend £120 million ($190 million) on a new facility at its complex in Macclesfield, England.

The company said that global demand for the drug, particularly in Japan, China and Russia, led it to the decision. It had total sales of about $1 billion last year, making it AstraZeneca's 5th best-selling product. AstraZeneca looked at locations around the world for the best place to build a new plant but decided the expertise at Macclesfield gave it the edge. Zoladex has been manufactured at Macclesfield since it launched in 1987. No new jobs will be created, although the project will create an estimated 200 temporary jobs during construction and commissioning. But 300 workers in Macclesfield will be able to keep their positions. That is something, given that AstraZeneca earlier this year announced it would trim its workforce by more than 5,000 globally.  

The new facility will replace some older ones at the complex. Construction will begin this year and is slated to be completed in 2016 with production expected to start in 2017, the company said today. 

Macclesfield is AstraZeneca's second-largest manufacturing complex with nearly 2,000 employees. In April, the company acknowledged in an SEC filing that it had received a subpoena from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Boston "seeking documents and records related to manufacturing, quality or good manufacturing practices at its Macclesfield facility in the U.K." The U.S. Attorney's Office has refused to comment, and the company has been mum since, saying only that it is cooperating with authorities.  

There have been rumors that AstraZeneca was in the hunt for more sterile manufacturing capacity. In August, reports surfaced that it was eyeing a buyout of Korean biosimilar maker Celltrion in part because it wanted its biologics plant, which is in a prime location for serving emerging markets in that part of the world.

- here's the announcement