AROUND 150 jobs at a Northumberland pharmaceutical site look to have been secured, with a buyer now in talks.
International pharmaceutical company Sanofi-Aventis has announced that it is in exclusive talks with American firm Covance Inc over the sale of its plant at Alnwick.
The two companies have also signed a non-binding memorandum for the sale which would see all 150 staff pass to the new owner.
It is hoped that due diligence can be completed and contracts signed in time for the deal to be completed by the end of the year.
Staff at what is one of Alnwick’s biggest employers, based on Willowburn Avenue, were given the news yesterday afternoon. The announcement came a year to the day after France-based Sanofi announced it was seeking to sell the Alnwick site as part of an overhaul of its research and development activities. Roland Jurke, site director at Alnwick, said last night: “I think it is very good news given the current climate that Sanofi-Aventis is in the position to announce they have entered exclusive negotiations with Covance.
“It is very good news for Alnwick, there is clearly a commitment to secure the existing staff.”
Mr Jurke said workers at Alnwick had been delighted by the news, after 12 months of uncertainty.
“It has been a long time, it has been a year since it was announced the site was to be divested.
“They were keen to find out who the potential new owner would be. The news has been very well received.”
The Alnwick site established in 1982, is one of only six company premises in the UK, with the firm also having a base at Fawdon, Newcastle.
It is the country’s only base for research and development, with 28 such centres worldwide, and specialises in preclinical research.
The deal being negotiated with Covance would also involve the company’s Porcheville site in France, and the transfer of its 150 staff.
The buyer is said to be one of the largest and most comprehensive drug development companies in the world and has a presence in 55 countries.
Mr Jurke said the company is looking to expand its research and development operation and that accordingly there would be potential for the Alnwick site to grow.