As Astra’s new chief executive, Pascal Soriot, works out a treatment plan to turn around the struggling drug maker’s business, he is axing nearly 4,000 jobs – including hundreds in the UK – and streamlining research and development. But Astra’s $200m (£130m) new plant in Jiangsu province is still set to open this year.
Why? Because drug sales in the country have boomed since Astra established itself in China in 1993. Astra’s turnover in China first exceeded $1bn (£655m) in 2010, and rose by a fifth last year to hit $1.3bn. The drug maker employs some 5,000 in manufacturing, sales and marketing, clinical research and new product development at its headquarters in Shanghai and at sites in mainland China and Hong Kong. That is up from 500 in 2002.
And demand is only growing: China’s pharmaceuticals market grew from $10bn in 2004 to $41bn in 2010 and, according to analysts at IMS, is set to go beyond $100bn by 2015, thanks to improvements and more insurance take-up.