A deal has been agreed for Grimsby’s Novartis plant, but any lingering hopes of saving jobs have been dashed.
Production will come to an end at the South Humber Bank site later this year, with a globally active US-headquartered specialist in the sale of such complex sites to take it on.
International Process Plants Ltd has launched a subsidiary, Humber Industrials, to manage the undisclosed buy-out. It could sell for operation as is – potentially attracting investment and a return to employment use – or break up for shipment elsewhere.
None of the 212 remaining staff will be taken on though, having been given two stays of execution since the 2018 bombshell announcement – with the deal ending any slim hope of a sale as a going concern and immediate transfer.
After briefing staff, Ian Johnson, managing director of Novartis Grimsby, said: “In 2018 Novartis announced it planned to exit the site as part of a global transformation. Since this time we have been exploring opportunities to divest the site.
“Today we have been able to announce to the remaining 212 employees that Novartis has reached an agreement to sell the land and assets to Humber Industrials Ltd, a subsidiary of International Process Plants Ltd.”
He described the business as a “specialist in redeveloping closed manufacturing assets, adding the “global company has 40 years’ expertise and technical knowledge in acquiring idle plant and equipment”.
The Moody Lane site spans 229-acres, with investment a constant in the 71 years it has operated for, delivering active ingredients for a variety of drugs for the Swiss pharmaceuticals giant.
Launched as Ciba, the decision to close came as a huge shock, with Novartis’ global leadership team opting to exit bulk manufacturing. Bosses stressed it was no reflection on the workforce, which included a substantial contracting community.
Marketing of the site began in 2019, a year on from the bombshell decision from Basel, with CBRE promoting it as a pharmaceuticals campus. Novartis is to gift 35 acres as an environmental legacy to North East Lincolnshire too, with the plan to add a further mitigation zone to ease inward investment into the borough.
The closure was pushed back from the original December 2020 date to December 2021, and then to the final quarter of this year when one process unit was decommissioned last May.
IPP boasts 160,000 customers, having traded for four decades. It describes itself as a global supplier of complete quality used process plants and equipment, managing industrial real estate, with a global inventory of plants and equipment.
The New Jersey entity, with a UK office in Billingham, Teesside, has been pitched as “a classic American entrepreneurial story” having been started by two brothers working at their father’s business premises in 1978.
Novartis will continue manufacturing for the next few months, with consultations to launch and timeframes to be formalised ahead of redundancies, and site clean-up ahead of an envisaged transfer next year.
Mr Johnson has praised the professionalism of the team and their engagement with the process since the exit was announced, with support continuing.
IPP’s European division has been approached for comment.