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A worker leaves the AstraZeneca research facility in Loughborough, (© Darren Staples / Reuters/Darren Staples/REUTERS)
A worker leaves the AstraZeneca research facility in Loughborough, (© Darren Staples / Reuters/Darren Staples/REUTERS)

AstraZeneca closing Montreal R&D plant Add to ...

British drug maker AstraZeneca is closing its Montreal research centre as part of a global move to cut costs and improve its productivity as it warned of a tough year ahead.

The move will impact 132 full-time employees at the facility in the St. Laurent suburb, or nearly 17 per cent of its Canadian work force of 800.

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The facility is one of the company's main neuroscience sites focused on the discovery and development of new medicines to treat neuropathic pain.

“As one of Canada's leading research-based pharmaceutical companies, AstraZeneca Canada remains committed to having an important presence in Quebec and Canada, and will continue to invest in key research and health-care partnerships,” the subsidiary based in Mississauga, stated in a news release.

It wasn't immediately clear if jobs are being cut in other Canadian locations.

AstraZeneca is just the latest drug manufacturer to cut jobs in the Montreal area. French pharmaceutical company Sanofi-Aventis laid off 100 workers last month at its R&D centre in Laval.

Johnson & Johnson also announced the closure of its research centre and the layoff of 126 workers.

London-based Astra Zeneca is reducing its global work force by 7,300, including 1,800 at 14 research and development sites around the world.

Among those being cut is about 24 per cent of its U.S. sales force, or 1,150 employees.

It will also stop R&D activities at its sites in Sodertalje, Sweden, where there is a focus on neuroscience research.

The company is creating a new virtual Neuroscience Innovative Medicines organization in Boston and Cambridge, U.K..

The Anglo-Swedish company said Thursday its full-year profit was $10 billion (U.S.), up from $8.1 billion a year earlier. The profit advance was helped heavily by a $1.5 billion gain from the sale of its dental subsidiary, Astra Tech.

The company said revenue this year will be hit by government interventions on prices, generic competition and the loss of exclusivity for Seroquel IR, a drug for the treatment of depression, and hypertension drug Atacand in global markets.

A more detailed look at the earnings shows that generics cut revenue by $2 billion in 2011 while price interventions cost another $1 billion.

Despite its concerns over the year ahead, AstraZeneca raised its full-year dividend by 10 per cent to $2.80 a share, and announced a $4.5 billion share buyback program.

The company reported double-digit sales gains for cholesterol drug Crestor, Symbicort for asthma and Seroquel XR.

U.S. revenue was up 5 per cent despite the negative impact of health-care reform, while revenue in the rest of the world was down three per cent, including a 15 per cent slide in Europe.

“The results contained a boost from the announcement of a new restructuring program involving some 7,300 positions,” said Savvas Neophytou, analyst at Panmure Gordon.

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