Alcon to build Singapore plant

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As the Asian eyecare market begins to explode, Alcon is preparing to be close to the action by adding a manufacturing plant in Singapore.

As the Asian eyecare market begins to explode, Alcon is preparing to be close to the action by adding a manufacturing plant in Singapore.

The 250,000-square-foot plant, which will employ 150 people, will manufacture pharmaceuticals to be distributed throughout Asia, with the exception of Japan.

Today, that region is supplied from plants in Fort Worth, US and Purrs, Belgium, said Doug MacHatton, Alcon's vice president of investor relations and corporate communications. Alcon has a third plant in Barcelona, Spain.

MacHatton said the region has experienced compound annual growth topping 20% in recent years. Having a plant in the area will help deliver pharmaceuticals more quickly and demonstrate the company's commitment to serving the Asian market, he said.

"I think it's not only the cost (you save), it's the time and revenue that you're investing in a local area - that enhances your ability to gain contractual revenue," MacHatton said.

"It's an opportunity to invest in an area of tremendous growth," he added, noting that the company has witnessed growth in India, Viet Nam, and other parts of south-east Asia. "We've already experienced growth and Singapore's an excellent location."

Alcon plans to break ground at the Tuas Biomedical Park in 2009 with the plant fully operational by 2012. The company expects to produce 53 million units per year by the third year of operation, compared with 125 million units per year from the Fort Worth plant and 110 units per year from the Puurs plant. Both of those sites employ about 250 people, according to Kat Golden, Alcon's manager, corporate communications.

"We do not expect to see a large increase in the site's overall employee headcount because efficiencies will come from our putting in place today management, quality assurance and engineering employees," she said.

Singapore's skilled workforce and stable government and utility infrastructure make it a logical place in which to build a base for growth, MacHatton said.

"Given the rapid growth in this region, this plant is integral to our ability to meet future market demands," Ed McGough, Alcon's senior vice president, global manufacturing and technical operations, said in a prepared statement.

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