Almirall spares 9 jobs as ax falls on Spanish R&D operation

Almirall (BME:ALM) has confirmed it is to cut back its Spanish R&D operation as part of a move toward becoming a specialty dermatology company. But the ax-wielding is less severe than first expected, with Almirall retaining 9 of the 68 positions that were originally on the block.

Almirall headquarters in Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, Spain-based Almirall first revealed plans to layoff 68 members of its R&D team last month, at which time it framed the cuts as part of a reorganization necessitated by the $2.1 billion (€2.0 billion) sale of its respiratory business to AstraZeneca ($AZN). Almirall transferred 719 of its employees to AstraZeneca as part of the deal, but was still left with a respiratory-focused R&D team. With no respiratory assets in its pipeline and no plans to develop any more, Almirall decided to lay off workers.

The final number of workers getting the chop is 59. Spanish trade union CCOO has tried to negotiate a soft landing for the affected employees, who will receive 45 days pay for each of their years at Almirall, news agency EFE reports. Laid off workers under age 55 will receive an additional premium, while CCOO secured an agreement to usher older ex-employees toward retirement. Almirall will also provide training and other services to anyone who is trying to find another job.

Such concessions are needed in Spain given the balance of power between employers and workers, a situation that is enforced by the ERE administrative procedure covering collective dismissals. Going through the process marks the end of Almirall's links to the respiratory sector. AstraZeneca bought its portfolio and pipeline, leaving the Catalan drugmaker with a pair of psoriasis drugs and an oncological pain treatment in its clinical-phase pipeline.

At the time of the sale, speculation was circulating that Almirall would acquire itself a fully-fledged dermatology pipeline through small buyouts and licensing deals. In February, Almirall confirmed the reports by committing to using some of its €754 million war chest to bolster its dermatology business, possibly through a sizeable deal. "We don't want to waste time with companies that may be too small. We may be ambitious in terms of the overall size," CFO Daniel Martinez told investors.

- read EFE's coverage (Spanish)
- here's Reuters' report

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