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Merck to close Irish plant with loss of 570 jobs

Published on 02/12/13 at 10:26am
MSD image
MSD Plant in Swords, Dublin

Merck & Co has said it plans to close down a facility in Ireland with the loss of around 570 jobs unless it can find a buyer.

The future of the plant at Swords has been in question for some time, but Merck - known as MSD outside the US - confirmed plans to close it down by the end of 2017 with 130 jobs due to go before the end of 2014.

"The company plans to work with IDA Ireland to aggressively pursue a buyer for the facility in order to potentially mitigate job losses," said the company in a statement.

Merck announced plans to cut 8,500 jobs in October as part of a cost-cutting plan to reduce expenses by $2.5 billion by the end of 2015.

The Swords unit was originally set up by Organon, which Merck acquired after it merged with Schering-Plough in 2009, and focusses on the production of female health products such as oral contraceptives and fertility treatments, as well as neuromuscular blocking agent Zemuron (rocuronium bromide).

Merck has been steadily scaling back its manufacturing network since the S-P takeover, and also agreed to offload another former Organon facility in Oss, the Netherlands, to South African drugmaker Aspen PharmaCare earlier this year.

Other plants set for the chop include Kenilworth in New Jersey, Barceloneta and Arecibo in Puerto Rico, and Rathdrum in Ireland, which is due to shut down completely by the end of 2015 with the loss of 280 positions. The group is also axing 500 jobs at its West Point R&D and manufacturing unit in Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, it is the second piece of bad news in recent months for Swords' pharmaceutical sector, following the decision by Swiss contract manufacturer Lonza to close down its own facility in the town earlier this year.

Investment agency IDA Ireland is assisting Merck in the process of trying to find a buyer for the Swords facility, and its chief executive, Barry O'Leary, said the three-year timeframe before closure should give it a good opportunity to do so.

"IDA Ireland has a good track record in finding buyers for pharmaceutical sites such as this," he added.  Recent examples include the sale of Pfizer's Dun Laoghaire plant to Amgen and Shanbally unit to BioMarin in 2011.

Jobs Minister Richard Bruton said the facility has a number of factors which make it attractive for potential purchasers including "a strongly committed workforce [and] significant global demand for its technologies".

Phil Taylor

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