AstraZeneca sells British R&D site, to take $275 million charge

LONDON Wed Mar 12, 2014 5:44am EDT

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LONDON (Reuters) - AstraZeneca (AZN.L) has agreed to sell its Alderley Park research site in northern England to a public-private partnership group as it moves drug discovery to a new global center in Cambridge.

The decision to close Alderley Park was a major blow for the northwest of the country, but the latest transaction has a silver lining as new owner Manchester Science Parks plans to keep the 400-acre site as a biotechnology campus.

The site lies with within the Cheshire parliamentary constituency of British Finance Minister George Osborne, who said on Wednesday he was delighted it would continue to play a role as a center for the life sciences industry.

The sale follows a decision last March by AstraZeneca Chief Executive Pascal Soriot to move drug research and development to a new site in university city Cambridge in eastern England - a world-class center for life sciences.

Shifting research to Cambridge and creating a new global headquarters for the company in the city is the centerpiece of a major restructuring plan unveiled by Soriot last year, which also included a 10 percent cut in total staff numbers by 2016.

The overall cost of the restructuring was initially put at $2.3 billion, although the company revised this up to $2.5 billion when it presented full-year results last month.

Following the sale of the Alderley Park site, AstraZeneca said it would take pretax impairment charges of $275 million to non-core R&D expense in the first quarter of 2014 as part of the wider restructuring program.

The financial terms of the sale were not disclosed.

(Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Pravin Char)

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