Roche can't sell plants in U.S. and Ireland, moves to close them

roche production
Roche production

Efforts by Roche to sell plants in the U.S. and Ireland have been unsuccessful, and the Swiss drugmaker is moving ahead with plans to close both, putting about 460 jobs on the chopping block. But there is still hope for two other small-molecule facilities in Europe that were also tagged for elimination last fall as the drugmaker moves further into biologics and specialized small-molecule drugs.

Roche ($RHHBY) told employees this week it was moving ahead with plans to close plants in Florence, NC, and Clarecastle, Ireland, in the next two to three years. A spokeswoman said the Florence plant has about 220 employees while Clarecastle has about 240. 

“Following a rigorous examination, negotiations for the transfer of the Clarecastle, Ireland and Florence, U.S. manufacturing sites to a global pharmaceutical services company have ended without an agreement,” the company said in an emailed statement Wednesday. “Therefore, as announced in November 2015, production at these sites will be ceased in a phased approach, currently estimated to be completed between 2018 and 2019.”

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The spokeswoman said the drugmaker still has negotiations underway that could save plants in Segrate, Italy, and Leganés, Spain, from the same fate.

Roche said in November it would close the four plants and lay off about 1,200 people, saying it would take a $1.6 billion charge to cover the move as it plays out over the next 5 years.

At the same time, the company laid out plans for a roughly $305 million expansion to the company's site in Kaiseraugst near its Basel, Switzerland, headquarters, which is getting new technology for small-molecule manufacturing. With about 10,400 employees there already, it is one of Roche's largest production centers.

The company expects the new facility to be operational within 6 years, but the technology addition will do nothing for employment. "One of the reasons we chose Kaiseraugst as the location for the new late stage technical development and launch facility is that we can transfer the available, skilled employees to there from Basel," a spokesperson said at the time.

In 2013, the company said it would invest about $880 million on the expansion of its biologics production network, with expansions of its facilities in Vacaville and Oceanside in California, the erection of a new antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) production facility in Basel, Switzerland, and an expansion in Penzberg, Germany. Those projects are slated to add about 500 jobs total.

- read the Breaking News Ireland story

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