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Pfizer in Talks with Venezuela on Factory Closing

Fri, 05/29/2009 - 4:46am
LINDA A. JOHNSON AP Business Writer TRENTON, New Jersey (AP) — Officials from Pfizer Inc. have been talking with Venezuela's trade minister after the government there said it might temporarily take over a Pfizer medicine factory that is closing, the company said Thursday. Executives of New York-based Pfizer, met recently with the Minister of Popular Power for Commerce, Eduardo Saman, to "reiterate their commitment" to continuously produce and supply essential drugs for the South American nation, Pfizer said. The flap began after Pfizer decided to sell one of two plants in Venezuela, both in the eastern city of Valencia in central Carabobo state. Production at the "East plant" there now is being consolidated at the other factory, called the "West Plant," Pfizer spokeswoman Shreya Jani said Thursday. "We're looking to find parties who would be interested in the East plant," she said, adding Pfizer has talked with parties including the Venezuelan government. Last Friday, Saman said his agency planned to ask President Hugo Chavez to order the takeover because Pfizer was closing the medicine factory. Samán said late Wednesday that Pfizer officials met with him and offered to sell the plant, the Venezuelan newspaper El Universal reported. Saman said that if the government decides to purchase the plant, it could use the facilities to produce generic medicines. He told the newspaper that Pfizer imports rather than produces medicines at the factories. However, Jani said the two factories have been producing a number of medicines and the West plant will continue to do so. Products made there include the blood pressure drug Norvasc and the antibiotics Unasyn and Zithromax. She said talks with the Venezuelan government are continuing and that the company is retaining its more than 300 employees from the two factories, transferring those from the East plant to the West plant. Pfizer has been supplying medicines in Venezuela for more than 55 years, the company said. Earlier this year, Venezuela took control of food-processing plants that allegedly failed to produce pasta and rice at government-set prices, including one owned by Minnesota-based food giant Cargill. Last week, Chavez announced plans to nationalize at least six metal, ceramic and other companies.

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