Irish plant shutdown move puts another Merck site on the block

The list of Merck ($MRK) manufacturing plants affected by its restructuring is growing longer. With Puerto Rico, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania already braced for job cuts, Merck confirmed this week it will add to Irish woes by shuttering its women's healthcare production plant in Swords by the end of 2017.

Merck employs 570 people at the site, but will trim its headcount by 130 over the next 6 months. Once these cuts are made, Merck will gradually phase out its operations at Swords before closing the plant in 2017. News that Merck is exiting the Swords plant comes 8 months after it outlined plans to close its facility in Wicklow County. Even after these closures, Merck will still operate from 5 sites in Ireland. Some of the workers at Swords could relocate to the remaining plants, the Irish Independent reports.

More jobs could be saved if Merck can find a buyer for the plant. "The company plans to work with IDA Ireland to aggressively pursue a buyer for the facility in order to potentially mitigate job losses," Merck said in a statement. With Merck planning to keep the facility open until 2017, there is plenty of time to find a buyer. Recent history gives further reasons to be optimistic about the eventual fate of the site. Over the past few years Pfizer ($PFE) has offloaded Irish production plants to Amgen ($AMGN) and Eli Lilly ($LLY).

Merck is already looking for buyers for some of its other sites. This week the city of Summit, NJ, published a brochure to promote the sale of Merck's campus there. The site--which houses a pilot plant, clinical trial supply capacity and warehouses--is due to close by the end of 2014. Local politicians would like another biopharma to take over the campus and are marketing its sale to 200 potential buyers.

- read the Independent article
- check out's Merck news
- and the plant sale brochure (PDF)