Belfast Telegraph

Pharmaceutical giant axes hundreds

Some 570 jobs at a pharmaceutical giant are being axed and scores of others are under threat at a major fashion retailer.

MSD, a leading player in the global healthcare business, is shutting its operation in Swords, Co Dublin by the end of 2017 with 130 workers being laid off next year.

And on the high street, 358 staff at A-Wear fear for their jobs after a receiver warned that some of the chain's 40 shops in Ireland and the UK will close.

Just days after the unemployment rate fell below 13%, Jobs Minister Richard Bruton and enterprise and investment agency IDA Ireland were forced on the defensive claiming MSD's Swords facility would be attractive for investors.

"The company and IDA will work aggressively to market this site, which has a number of factors which make it attractive for potential purchasers as a going concern - including a strongly committed workforce, significant global demand for its technologies and a long lead-in time of over four years until the site is scheduled to be wound down," Mr Bruton said.

The Government pointed to several successful sales of pharma sites in Ireland including GSK/Stiefel in Sligo, Pfizer/Amgen in Dun Laoghaire.

Barry O'Leary, IDA chief executive, said: "IDA Ireland has a good track record in finding buyers for pharmaceutical sites such as this."

MSD employs more than 2,000 people in Ireland with manufacturing sites in Dublin, Carlow, Cork, Tipperary and Wicklow making products for animal and human health alongside a business services centre.

Employees have been told that redundancies will not kick in before the middle of next year, with the first wave - 130 staff - expected to leave in the second half of 2014 and the rest over the following three years.

Tony Pusic, Swords site director, said Swords has been an important base for the company since 1990.

"The proposal to cease operations is not a reflection of the site's performance or the highly skilled people working here," he said.

"The proposal is an outcome of MSD's ongoing review of its worldwide manufacturing capacity that has resulted in sites being sold, closed or consolidated in all regions of the world."

Elsewhere, the troubled fashion chain A-Wear was put into receivership after an examinership failed to put the company on a sound footing.

It was suggested back in October that A-Wear would need to close 11 stores in order to survive but it is not clear which, if any, have been earmarked for closure.

Decisions on gift cards, stores and customer deposits are expected to be known tomorrow.

High rents have been blamed for the company's faliings but it has also been through a slew of takeovers since it was sold by the Brown Thomas department store in a management buyout in 2007 and the recession hit.

Since then the owners have included Hilco Capital, which bought HMV, the Jesta Group in partnership with businessman Michael Flacks and more recently Canadian businessman Jack Stein. Its parent company is Latzur Limited.

It has 117 full-time and 241 part-time staff at 31 stores across Ireland, nine concession stores in larger stores in the United Kingdom, and a head office on Dublin's Grafton Street.

Receiver Ken Fennell, of Kavanagh Fennell, warned that some stores will close but vowed to try to sell the business as a going concern and protect as many jobs as possible.

It said sales projections did not materialise after the examinership and no viable investment plan has been made.

Shops will keep trading but the website and online store was shutdown on the back of the announcement.

Meanwhile, MSD said that products made in Swords will be moved to MSD sites in the Netherlands, the US and Belgium, and also to other third-party manufacturers in Europe. They include products for women's health, anaesthesia and psychiatry.

MSD announced the closure of its site in Rathdrum, Co Wicklow, in March which is due to cease production by the end of 2015.

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