US pharmaceutical giant GSK is planning to invest more than €1 billion in Italy over the next four years, according to Daniele Finocchiaro, CEO of GSK Italia.
The funds won’t be going to “the construction of new plants, but to reinforce product lines and provide more continuity for research and development. Specialization is the greatest weapon we have and—as shown by our acquisition of the vaccine center in Siena—we are aiming for excellence and looking to grow,” he said.
GSK current has revenues of €1 billion in Italy, 5,100 employees and a network of nine research centers, manufacturing plants and commercial offices. It is reviving the vaccine center in Rosia, in the city of Sovicille near Siena.
“For GSK, Italy is a strategic country and the nation receiving the biggest chunk of resources outside the company’s country of origin. When the purchase of Novartis’ vaccine business closed eight months ago, we doubled the number of employees and investments, adding the sites in Siena and nearby Rosia,” he said.
GSK has confirmed plans to invest €50 million this year in Siena to build two new facilities, for production and quality control laboratories. The fresh funds follow previous investments in Siena-area facilities, in 2006 and 2014: €1.2 billion for research and development and €350 million for offices and manufacturing plants.
Growth in Siena was spurred by the meningitis B vaccine developed by a team led by scientist Rino Rappuoli, CEO of GSK Vaccines Italia, a division with €591 million in revenue in 2014—94% exports—and 2,880 employees from 43 nations.
“To understand how much this sector has grown, just imagine that only 1,300 people worked here ten years ago,” said Rappuoli.
This year, 94 milion vaccine doses will be manufactured in Siena and distributed to 78 countries. The Tuscan district has been named by GSK as one of the company’s three centers of global excellence for vaccines is the only one producing meningitis vaccines, even if it hasn't yet reached its optimal level of efficiency.
“The merging of the vaccine division of the former Novartis into GSK, seeking to avoid duplication, isn’t over yet,” said Finocchiaro. “We have to create the most efficient possible structure in order for it to be sustainable in the long term. That’s why initially, in Italy, employment won't rise. Everyone has to make some sacrifices and today we are an entity that is creating wealth in the nation because we invest more than we earn.”
Finocchiaro notes that he raised staffing levels by 17% during the economic crisis, from 2011 through today. And he is asking is the Italian government to provide more clarity on budget issues in order to plan for the long term.
“What the heads of multinationals based in various countries need is to be able to tell the parent company that the frame of reference is stable and that, therefore, they can create a long-term investment plan without any trepidation,” he explained. “But in Italy we still don’t know how the 2013 and 2014 budgets ended up because there is no certainty on getting paid back, and we are in the situation of paying taxes on amounts we have set aside in funds.”
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