No sale yet at Pfizer plant in County Limerick

Norma Prendiville

Reporter:

Norma Prendiville

PFIZER is not expected to make any further announcement about the sale of its baby-food plant in Askeaton until later this year. Meantime, it is business as usual at Askeaton and all Pfizer Nutrition plants, a spokeswoman for the company said this week.

PFIZER is not expected to make any further announcement about the sale of its baby-food plant in Askeaton until later this year. Meantime, it is business as usual at Askeaton and all Pfizer Nutrition plants, a spokeswoman for the company said this week.

Last summer, Pfizer announced it was looking to sell the former Wyeth plant as a going concern. At the time, there was speculation that firms such as Nestle, Danone and Abbott were interested in acquiring Askeaton and this speculation has continued to circulate.But over the past number of weeks, speculation has intensified that a sale was imminent amid reports that potential buyers were visiting the plant in numbers.

According to one reliable source, there has been an access-all-areas policy in place at the plant for the past several weeks when representatives from a number of companies were conducting detailed site visits.“They had access to all staff,” the source said and it was his understanding everything went well. This, the source added, was despite the fact that the visits were taking place at at the same time as the water pollution incident on the Deel. In response to this incident, the company shut down production for a short period and dumped a certain amount of product. When production resumed, water was brought in by tankers for a period. The plant runs its separate own water treatment plant.

However, the Pfizer spokeswoman declined to comment on whether a sale was imminent or not. “The position is still the same, the business is under strategic review,” the spokesperson said. “This process is ongoing and to date no decisions have been made. We do not anticipate making any further announcements until later in 2012.”

Giant multinational Pfizer acquired Wyeth International in 2009 in a take-over which cost $68 billion. The Askeaton plant is one of the largest purpose-built baby formula plants in the world and has been enormously successful in exporting its product to more than 50 markets worldwide - with a third of its 50 million kilogrammes of product destined for Europe.

But last summer Pfizer decided to put its entire nutritional food sector on the market. Askeaton is one of five such plants which are now for sale. The sector generated sales of $1.867 billion for Pfizer in 2010 but no specific reason for the decision to sell was given. A spokeswoman for Pfizer said they were looking at “strategic options”.