Company hopeful of securing buyers for surplus plants, says top executive


PFIZER’S SENIOR executive in Ireland yesterday expressed hope the company will find buyers for two of its plants in Cork which it plans to close as part of a global restructuring which will result in the loss of some 300 jobs on Leeside.

Dr Paul Duffy, vice-president Irish manufacturing, conceded the company will face a difficult market when it tries to sell its plants at Loughbeg and Shanbally in Cork as well as one in Dún Laoghaire, Dublin, but he pointed out Pfizer had some success in this area in the past. “It is a difficult operating environment globally and there is excess capacity globally. But the restructuring will be phased over 18 months to five years, which gives us time to market the sites and we have had success in the past.”

Dr Duffy said Pfizer had successfully sold its animal health division in Sligo to Elanco and its second plant in Loughbeg to Hovione in the past two years, although it had to close another plant at Inchera, Little Island, Cork, after failing to find a buyer.

He said the plants which will be put up for sale are state-of-the-art facilities as Pfizer had invested €190 million in the Shanbally facility, which opened last year, and it invested €240 million in the Dún Laoghaire plant over the last five years.

Shanbally, which employs 75 people, is a biologics facility. The company has decided to centralise its biologics operations in Ireland at Castle Grange in Dublin which was developed by Wyeth and employs 1,200.

Speaking at a press conference in Pfizer’s headquarters at Ringaskiddy, Cork, Dr Duffy said the closure of the Shanbally plant would take place in 2013 while the closure of the tablet plant at Loughbeg with the loss of 225 jobs would take place in 2012.

He confirmed the company’s plant at Ringaskiddy, which manufactures active ingredients for its products, will continue to operate with staff levels remaining at 500 while a tablet-making plant at Little Island will also remain open, employing 250 people.

The US-owned multinational was one of the first pharmaceutical firms to set up in Ireland. It opened the facility at Ringaskiddy in 1969 and at its peak, prior to the merger with Wyeth, employed some 2,300 people at six locations nationwide.

Following the merger with Wyeth, staff numbers rose to 5,000 at 10 locations in Ireland. But the merger led to duplication and overcapacity which triggered the review of operations globally.

“Our hope is that the Pfizer global manufacturing plants that remain will be in a position to deliver high quality products at competitive costs . . . Pfizer will continue to employ over 4,000 people in Ireland once these changes happen. I believe the decision we’ve taken today is the best for protecting the 4,000 jobs that remain . . . the Irish sites have a history of good supply, competitive costs and good compliance and . . . you can use it to secure your future,” Dr Duffy said.

He conceded that the news of the restructuring had come as a shock to many of the staff. While the company had still to embark on consultation regarding the layoffs, the company had a generous redundancy agreement of six weeks pay per year of service.

Chief executive of the Cork chamber Conor Healy expressed disappointment at the decision by Pfizer to close two of its plants in Cork. He said it would have a significant impact on the local economy if suitable buyers cannot be found “While today’s announcement is clearly not a reflection on either the Cork or wider Irish operations, it is worth noting that there are currently significant pressures on the worldwide pharmaceutical market and an enhanced need for global efficiencies.”