New Dawn: Aspen opts for SA rather than Europe for new R1bn drugs factory

JOHANNESBURG — It looks like investment is starting to slowly trickle back into South Africa. Multinational drug maker Aspen, which is headquartered in Durban, has seen the opportunities in South Africa and this week announced the completed build of a new R1bn factory in Port Elizabeth. Other regions in the world in the running for Aspen’s mega factory included the likes of Europe. Aspen now will become the second largest employer in Port Elizabeth after Volkswagen. The New Dawn is upon us but the country will still need many more investments like this to start making a dent in its out-of-control poverty levels. But if we make our business environment more friendly, the country has a lot to offer the world thanks to its competitively priced exchange rate and labour costs. – Gareth van Zyl

By Janice Kew

(Bloomberg) — Aspen Pharmacare Holdings is relocating the production of drugs for late-stage cancer, Parkinson’s disease and some auto-immune illnesses to South Africa from regions including Europe.

The move will help secure supply as manufacturing of the pharmaceuticals is currently outsourced to other companies, Chief Executive Officer Stephen Saad told reporters Monday in Port Elizabeth, where the 1 billion rand ($80 million) unit has been built. Aspen is Africa’s biggest drugmaker with operations in more than 150 countries and is valued at about 121 billion rand.

Signage sits on the exterior of the Aspen Pharmacare Holdings Ltd. offices in Durban, South Africa. Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

The new plant will start making drugs next month and is expected to produce about 3.6 billion pills a year at full capacity. About 90 percent of those will be exported, and both South African and German regulators have audited and approved the high-containment factory.

Aspen will add 500 jobs as part of the expansion, bringing its total employed in the coastal city to 2,500 people, Saad told reporters. That will make the Durban-based drugmaker the second-biggest employer in Port Elizabeth after German carmaker Volkswagen AG.

The company plans to build a separate factory in the city that will produce anesthetics and anti-coagulants that will be completed over the next three to four years, the CEO said. That’s expected to cost at least 2 billion rand.

The share closed 1.3 percent lower in Johannesburg Monday at 264.52 rand.

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