GlaxoSmithKline to sell Horlicks malted drinks business in UK

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has confirmed that it would sell Horlicks malted drinks business and cut 320 jobs over the next four years. This comes as the first major move by chief executive Emma Walmsley who succeeded Sir Andrew Witty in April and was shifting the group's focus from consumer products to growing its drugs pipeline.

GSK had also dropped plans to build a £350 million drugs factory in Ulverston, Cumbria. Five years ago GSK said it had plans to create 500 permanent jobs, which had then been described by Prime Minister David Cameron as "excellent news for Cumbria".

Describing the latest news as ''shocking'' on Twitter, local MP John Woodcock said he would call an emergency meeting in Ulverston for tomorrow morning.

Under the restructuring, GSK also planned to shut down a manufacturing site in Slough and intended to sell its healthcare brand MaxiNutrition, and also explore options to offload other small nutrition brands.

GSK said the changes, which also included outsourcing jobs from a drugs factory in Worthing were designed to improve its UK manufacturing network.

The company was also undertaking a strategic review of its antibiotics business, with a view to a possible sale, including sites in Ulverston, Cumbria, part of its Barnard Castle facility in Durham and Verona in Italy.

The FTSE 100 firm, which employed 17,000 people in the UK, added the changes were not connected to Brexit.

The antibiotics business under strategic review included brands Zinnat/Ceftin, Zinacef and Fortum with global annual sales estimated at around £200 million but faced increasing competition from cheap generics.

Additionally, GSK announced just over 300 job losses yesterday and confirmed that the UK-focused MaxiNutrition sports nutrition brand would be sold.

The combined annual UK sales of Horlicks and MaxiNutrition, which industry sources had earlier said were on the block, were around £30 million. GSK was also considering divesting some other smaller non-core nutrition brands.