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Roche to spend $3.2 billion on Basel site upgrade

October 22, 2014
Life sciences
(Reuters) – Swiss drugmaker Roche said on Wednesday it would spend 3 billion Swiss francs (1.9 billion pounds) to upgrade its Basel site, a vote of confidence in its Swiss base despite ongoing uncertainty over the country’s immigration laws.
 
The company – which traces its roots in Basel to 1896 when Fritz Hoffman-La Roche set up the business – said it would invest in a new research and development centre, build a new office tower and upgrade existing infrastructure and buildings.
 
“Roche is committed long-term to Switzerland and to Basel in its dual role as corporate headquarters and one of our most important sites worldwide,” Chief Executive Severin Schwan said in a statement.
 
The drug company’s latest investment in Switzerland comes as lawmakers decide how to implement a February vote that called for restrictions on the number of immigrants from the European Union.
 
Other multinationals, including Swiss engineer ABB, have warned the government against a too-rigid interpretation of the vote, which called for quotas on EU migrants.
 
Around two-thirds of Roche’s workforce in Basel are foreign and the drugmaker relies on Switzerland’s open borders to recruit the best talent.
 
In an interview with Reuters last month, Schwan, an Austrian, expressed confidence that a pragmatic solution would be found for the current immigration dilemma.
 
“The bottom line is that Switzerland has always been extremely open,” he said. “There is a culture which fosters education, innovation and that works well for companies like Roche and Novartis.”
 
Local rival Novartis has also spent over 2 billion francs in recent year to transform its formerly industrial site on the other side of the Rhine river into a state-of-the-art campus.
 
Roche’s investment will take place over ten years and help consolidate the firm’s 9,000 employees in Basel – who are currently spread around the city – around its main site.
 
Of the 3 billion francs set aside for the upgrade, 1.7 billion will be spent on a new research building for 1,900 people expected to go into service between 2021 and 2022.
 
A further 550 million francs will be spent on a new 204-metre tall office tower, which will house 1,700 workers, and is expected to be completed by 2021.
 
The new office block, dubbed “Building 2”, will surpass the height of another office tower currently under construction known as “Building 1”. At a height of 178 metres it will become Switzerland’s tallest building when it opens at the end of 2015.
 
Roche will also renovate existing buildings to make them more energy efficient and upgrade infrastructure at a cost of 700 million francs.
 
(Reporting by Caroline Copley, editing by Louise Heavens)

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