Jobs saved as Boehringer Ingelheim finds Chinese buyer for U.S. plant set to close

About 240 workers at a Boehringer Ingelheim complex in Virginia will have something special to celebrate this Thanksgiving: the prospect of keeping their jobs. Just weeks ahead of closing the facility and laying off all its workers, Boehringer has found a Chinese buyer that intends to add to the head count there.

Boehringer said in an email that it would sell the API plant in Petersburg to UniTao Pharmaceuticals for an undisclosed sum. Workers will be able to reapply for their jobs and according to an announcement from the governor's office, UniTao plans to invest $22.5 million and eventually employ 376 there.

"Due to challenges in excess capacity over the past several years, Boehringer Ingelheim Chemicals, Inc. (BICI) made the difficult decision to cease all operations in Petersburg, VA, by the end of 2014," the company said in an email Thursday. "Between the time of that announcement in August 2013 and the sale of site assets, BICI conducted an extensive search for a suitable buyer before entering into agreement with UniTao Pharmaceuticals."

The German drugmaker in August announced a 15% workforce reduction focused on Germany as revenues overall fell 3% and pharma sales were off 5.4% in the first half of the year. It also pointed to its decision to settle about 4,000 lawsuits over its blood thinner Pradaxa for $650 million as a move it had made to better position itself but that ultimately took a financial toll.

The fate of the plant in Virginia, which makes APIs, has been tenuous for much longer. Boehringer has been cutting jobs there for several years and in August of last year, the decision to close the plant was announced.

UniTao, a subsidiary of Shanghai-based Tenry Pharmaceutical, will make APIs at the plant. According to the governor's announcement, the company was founded in 2005 and has about 500 employees but has pledged to grow employment in the U.S. to 376. "The former Boehringer Ingelheim facility, the region's accessibility and its skilled workforce will enable us to start operations quickly and better meet marketplace demands in the U.S. and elsewhere." UniTao CEO Tao Ye said in the release.

- here's the announcement
- more from the Times Dispatch

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