Novartis to build new Swiss factory
* Will invest over 500 CHF in new site
* Follows u-turn on Nyon/Prangins plant in Jan
* Last year Novartis faced ire over job cuts in Switzerland
ZURICH, April 23 (Reuters) - Novartis AG plans to invest over 500 million Swiss francs ($550 million) in a new Swiss factory, underscoring its commitment to the country following an uproar over planned job cuts last year.
The Swiss drugmaker said on Monday it expects the manufacturing facility in Stein in northern Switzerland to be fully operational by the end of 2016. It will replace an older facility that will be partially demolished by 2016.
The investment follows a u-turn in January by Novartis on its plans to close a plant in the small town of Nyon, which makes over-the-counter products, after the proposed cuts met with stiff opposition.
Novartis had planned to axe 1,100 jobs in Basel and Nyon as it scrambles to cut costs in the face of patent expiries on some of its biggest-selling medicines.
The Stein site is Novartis' largest production facility of its pharmaceuticals division and currently employs some 1,400 staff. Products made in Stein are exported to over 150 countries.
Chief Executive Joseph Jimenez said the investment showed Switzerland remained a key centre for Novartis.
The new facility, which will make solid forms dosages such as pills and capsules, will allow Novartis to adapt production to meet demand more quickly, the company said. ($1=0.9097 Swiss francs) (Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by Mike Nesbit)