Roche adds 780 to planned layoffs

Roche CFO Erich Hunziker hinted at job cuts two days ago; now he's putting a number to at least part of the layoff plan. The Swiss drugmaker plans to axe 780 positions from its production workforce over the next two to three years, Hunziker told investors today. The workforce cuts are in addition to a restructuring program that's already set to reduce employment at Roche manufacturing facilities by 1,152.

In a summary of a presentation to investors--posted on the Roche site and obtained by Dow Jones--Hunziker also expressed concern that drugmakers will falter in the contracting economy. Demand for healthcare will increase despite the downturn, he said, but funding will be harder and harder to come by. So even pharma, often considered to be "recession-proof," will feel the pain.

But, he said, Roche is well positioned to deal with the tough environment, because it has fewer drugs nearing the patent cliff than its competitors do, and because several key products are poised to grow outside the troubled U.S. market.

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