A leading Indian pharmaceutical company sees Malta as a gateway to Europe and is investing €10 million (Lm4.3 million) in setting up its manufacturing plant here.

Aurobindo Pharma Ltd, which operates in over 100 countries, will start service operations later this year and eventually employ 120 people.

Investments Minister Austin Gatt yesterday presented Venulopalan Muralidharan (Murali), Aurobindo vice president, with the formal letter of intent as part of the government's bid to assist the company in its investment.

"The presence of Aurobindo is very important, because it complements the present pharmaceutical network in Malta, which today employs about 900 people, a figure expected to soar to 1,400 over the next three years," Dr Gatt said at a press conference.

Aurobindo is a publicly listed company that is among the top five in the pharmaceutical sector in India, the country that is set to produce 20 per cent of the world's pharmaceutical products.

The company is a global operator with a turnover exceeding half a billion dollars last year.

Aurobindo owns 11 subsidiary manufacturing companies, markets more than 250 formulations and employs about 7,000 people worldwide.

The company has a strong global presence in the therapeutic segments of anti-infectives, antiretrovirals, cardiovasculars and the central nervous system.

To consolidate and strengthen its presence in Europe, Aurobindo has decided to invest in a manufacturing and services operation here that will serve as a hub for European markets.

In the Malta project, Aurobindo will invest funds in the manufacture of pharma-finished formulations and the provision of services including lab testing, quality assurance and the testing of pharma products for quality release on to EU markets.

The company in Malta expects to reach a sales figure of €26 million (Lm11.2 million) in the fifth year.

It will start operating from an existing factory in Ħal Far while construction of new manufacturing premises will begin at the Ħal Far industrial estate to enable it to expand its facilities by 2010. Mr Murali said the company chose the island because of its pool of hardworking, English-speaking workers, reduced income tax, investor-friendly legislations, and the widely acknowledged quality standards of the Malta Medicines Authority, among others.

Aurobindo also chose Malta because it plans to expand its European market share. The growth of the Malta project will, therefore, take place in tandem with the realisation of the company's expansion plans in Europe.

Dr Gatt said that Aurobindo, a role-model company with a global reputation, was expected to encourage other major names in the pharmaceutical sector to select Malta as their manufacturing base.

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