ONE of a Northumberland market town’s biggest employers has been put up for sale, sparking fears over the future of more than 150 jobs.
International pharmaceutical company Sanofi-Aventis has announced that it is seeking a buyer for its site at Alnwick, where 170 people work.
The Alnwick site, established in 1982, is one of only six company premises in the UK but the country’s only base for research and development (R&D), in particular preclinical research.
And it is those elements of its operation which the Alnwick site specialises in, that the French-based firm announced on Tuesday it was seeking to re-model.
A statement issued by the company said “diversement or reconversion solutions will be sought for certain activities” at preclinical sites in the UK, America, Spain and Japan.
A spokeswoman for the company in the UK said it appeared the firm is looking to sell the Alnwick site complete with its 170 staff. Last night, civic leaders in Alnwick spoke of the importance of the company to the town and were pinning their hopes on a buyer being found.
Sir Alan Beith, Liberal Democrat MP for Berwick, has already been in contact with management at the Alnwick site and hopes to have face-to-face talks “very soon.”
Sir Alan said: “Sanofi Aventis is a vital employer in Alnwick employing highly qualified and skilled people and which plays a key role in the pharmaceutical industry and it is extremely important that its future is secured.”
Northumberland County Councillor for Alnwick, Gordon Castle, said: “It is such a successful outfit that one hopes it will continue in its present form.
“The town would be very sorry to see it go. Most businesses would feel some effect from this.”
Coun Castle said it would be “a very worrying time” for staff at the site, which he says employs many local people and pays good wages.
“I do feel sorry for those whose jobs seem to be threatened.”
Sanofi Aventis has a total of 28 R&D sites worldwide.
It has a base at Fawdon, Newcastle, although that is a manufacturing site and is not thought to be affected by the company’s global remodelling.
Management at the Alnwick site could not be contacted for comment yesterday.
The news comes just after Sanofi Aventis awarded the catering contract for the town base to a new company.
It was revealed on Thursday that Wilson Vale Catering Management was awarded the contract.