AstraZeneca to axe another 8,000 jobs

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The Independent Online

Another 8,000 jobs are to be slashed across AstraZeneca's global operations under a sweeping job cuts programme that has already seen 12,600 roles axed, the drugs giant said today.

The jobs will go over the next four years across global functions, including sales and marketing, business infrastructure, research and development (R&D) and the supply chain.

Astra warned there may be some closures of research and development sites or facilities as part of a company reorganisation which aims to deliver cost savings of around 1.8 billion US dollars (£1.1 billion) by 2014.

The group has a number of operations across the UK, including its head office in Macclesfield, Cheshire, and sites in Alderley Park, Loughborough, Bristol, Luton and London.

Around 3,500 jobs will go in R&D, although Astra said the net effect after reallocation of roles elsewhere would be closer to 1,800.

Astra first announced job reduction plans in 2007 and extended this programme last January from around 9,000 to 15,000 roles by 2013.

Today, it extended the timeframe by a year to 2014 and said "keeping our employees informed remains our priority and we will consult fully with them on any proposed changes".

But the group said it was too early to confirm where the latest job cuts would be made.

The last available figures from 2009 showed that around 11,000 staff worked in the UK, although this is likely to be lower after recent job reductions.

Astra employs 63,000 people worldwide.

Today's jobs blow came as Astra reported annual figures showing a 24% rise in profits to 10.81 billion dollars (£6.65 billion).

The swine flu pandemic provided a boost to sales, with Astra benefiting from government orders for vaccines and treatment.

It said swine flu sales added three percentage points to a 7 per cent hike in revenues over 2009.

But the group expects a tough year ahead as it faces competition to its drugs as patents run out.

Astra is forecasting revenues will fall over 2010, guiding for a "mid to single digit" decline.

David Brennan, chief executive of Astra, said: "Let's be clear - 2010 is going to be a challenging year."

He said the overhaul and job losses were "not just about cost reduction" and pledged investment in growth areas.

While there have been swathes of roles axed from the business, it has also added around 8,000 new positions.

The group also hopes to create further roles which will reduce the net impact of the additional cuts announced today.