Bertarelli surprised by Merck Serono closure

Businessman Ernesto Bertarelli, the former owner of biotech firm Serono, says he is saddened and surprised by Merck’s plans to shut its Geneva pharmaceutical division.

This content was published on April 25, 2012 minutes and agencies

The struggling German drug and chemical maker Merck said on Tuesday it planned to shut the Swiss headquarters of its Merck Serono division as part of an efficiency drive, cutting over 500 jobs and redeploying 750 others.

“It’s unfortunate,” Bertarelli told Le Temps in a newspaper interview. “I’m saddened for all the people concerned in Switzerland, in particular at Geneva, where a large part of Serono’s history was written.”

Merck completed the acquisition of Serono from the Bertarelli family at the beginning of 2007 for SFr16.6 billion.

The former chief executive, who has not had any responsibilities with the firm since 2006, said he was very surprised by the economic logic of Merck’s decision.

He felt Serono products had sold well, such as the MS drug Rebif, which has been on the market for 17 years and whose sales have doubled to SFr2 billion over the past five years.

“The decision shows that we are not protected from this difficult global economic environment,” Bertarelli told the newspaper. “In this context various countries and firms tend to protect their own interests.”

He said at the time of the acquisition no conditions had been set for Serono’s long-term presence in Geneva, but for him it was evident they would stay.

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