By Bill Kirk
---- — ANDOVER — Eisai Inc., a Japanese pharmaceutical company with a 150,000-square-foot facility at 4 Corporate Drive, is laying off 72 local employees and closing one of its research divisions in town.
The company, which makes health care products including cancer and Alzheimer’s drugs, opened a $65 million, state-of-the-art lab on Corporate Drive six years ago.
That facility was meant to house employees from two different facilities - one in Wilmington and the other in a nearby building in Andover. Some 240 people now work at the combined Andover plant.
The layoff of nearly 30 percent of Eisai’s local workforce was announced in a letter late last month to the Andover Board of Selectmen from the company’s human resources department in Woodcliff Lake, N.J.
“This is part of a reorganization plan that will include the closing of its pilot plant, the reduction of a significant portion of the Pharmaceutical Science and Technology Core Function Unit in Andover, and workforce reductions in other Andover departments,” the letter said. “These actions are expected to be permanent.”
By law, companies intending to make large-scale layoffs are required to inform local authorities in advance.
The layoffs are expected to take effect Dec. 31, 2013.
A spokeswoman for Eisai, Suzanne Grogan, said this week that it’s not just Andover that’s being affected. She said 7 percent of Eisai’s global research and development organization is also affected.
“We are always looking at ways of strengthening our capabilities,” she said. “This is part of our periodic evaluation of our resources. We have to make sure we have our resources allocated to our key projects.”
She said Andover would continue to be a hub for discovery research.
The company employs about 10,500 people worldwide. In the U.S., there are about 1,500 Eisai employees and another 300 working for Eisai subsidiaries. Worldwide, the Japanese company employs more than 10,000 people. Last year Eisai had sales of nearly $6 billion.
Grogan said layoffs are also being made at the company’s U.S. headquarters in New Jersey and at one of its subsidiaries in Pennsylvania.
The last layoff by the company was in spring 2011, when 20 percent of the company was cut across the board, she said.
The layoffs were not in response to anything in particular in the economy, but are “based on our business needs.”
Haruo Naito, the president of the Tokyo-based company, made reference to the difficult economy in a message on the Eisai website.
“Uncertainty regarding the global economy mounted during fiscal 2012, including the financial problems in Europe and the U.S. and slowdowns in the economies of China and other emerging countries,” he said.
“As the global economy sways, the world’s pharmaceuticals market is shifting into an era of great globalization.”
He added that “growth has become sluggish in developed countries, while opportunities for growth are expanding in emerging and developing countries.”
According to a list supplied by the human resources officer at Eisai, positions that are being cut locally include scientists, managers and clerical workers, among others.
Eisai opened its first Andover facility, next door to the new building, in 1989. That marked the company’s first permanent home in the U.S.