GSK puts Horlicks up for sale following review of UK business

Thu, 20 Jul 2017 | DIVISION SALE

Drugs giant Glaxosmithkline will sell its Horlicks business in the UK and close the location where the malted drink is manufactured.

The decision comes as part of a suite of restructuring changes announced by GSK’s chief executive, Emma Walmsley, in a bid to improve efficiency in the drug group’s British manufacturing network.

Walmsley succeeded former boss Sir Andrew Witty in April and made it clear she would refocus GSK’s efforts on its drugs business, putting it “more at the heart of where we spend our leadership time and what we spend our time talking about”.

Alongside selling the Horlicks brand and closing the Slough factory where it has been made since 1908, GSK will also sell off its Maxi Nutrition brand.

The group is also considering selling its antibiotics business, which has facilities based in Ulverston in Cumbria, Verona and Bernard Castle, near Durham. Manufacturing based at GSK’s Worthing site will also be outsourced.

In total, the moves are expected to lead to the loss of 320 jobs over the next four years, with a review of the firm’s antibiotics unit risking more still.

GSK has also abandoned a proposed £350 million biopharmaceutical manufacturing plant in Cumbria, hailed five years ago by then Prime Minister David Cameron for the potential creation of 500 new jobs.

As Britain’s largest drugs company, GSK currently employs around 17,000 people in the UK – with 5,000 of those working in manufacturing – but stressed that the move was unrelated to the potential impact of Brexit.

Philip Thomson, president of global affairs, said: "We are continuing to invest in science and our core businesses in the UK and we continue to see the UK as an attractive place for the life sciences industry.

Horlicks, a favourite bedtime drink of many, has been made on UK soil for more than 100 years but has seen annual sales in the country decline to about £15 million. It is still popular in India and South-East Asia, where consumers account for the bulk of its global revenue.

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