AstraZeneca stays in England with $190 million plant

AstraZeneca ($AZN) looked globally for the best location to put a new plant to manufacture its prostate cancer drug Zoladex. Having parsed the pros and cons, it decided the experience it has at its plant in Macclesfield, England, which has produced the sterile drug for 25 years, gave it the edge over other considerations. And so the drugmaker will invest £120 million ($190 million) there on a new plant to meet growing demand for the blockbuster.

"Having considered a number of options globally, we believe it is the right choice to build the new facility in Macclesfield, which has been home to Zoladex manufacturing--and the expertise that goes along with it--for many years," said David Smith, AstraZeneca executive vice-president of operations.

No new jobs will be created, although the project will create an estimated 200 temporary jobs during construction and commissioning. The decision to build there means 300 workers in Macclesfield will be able to keep their positions. That is something, given that AstraZeneca announced earlier this year that 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 Monday.

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.  

Global demand for the drug, particularly in Japan, China and Russia, led it to the decision, the company said. Zoladex had total sales of about $1 billion last year, making it AstraZeneca's 5th-best-selling product. 

There have been rumors that AstraZeneca was hunting 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

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