AstraZeneca wants to inject 650 million pounds (650 million euros) in a major ‘vote of confidence’ for Britain

Astrazeneca will inject £650 million into Britain’s leading pharmaceutical industry, delivering a major boost to the economy.

The FTSE 100 group will invest £450 million in researching, developing and manufacturing new vaccines at its factory in Speke, Liverpool.

The drug giant, which has developed a Covid vaccine with the University of Oxford, will also spend £200 million expanding Europe’s largest life sciences cluster in Cambridge.

The plans were announced yesterday by Jeremy Hunt, when he called AstraZeneca’s French boss Sir Pascal Soriot ‘mon ami’ – or ‘my friend’.

The Chancellor called for ‘more investment and better jobs in every corner of the country’ and said: ‘AstraZeneca’s investment plans are a vote of confidence in Britain’s attractiveness as a life sciences superpower and strengthen our resilience to future health emergencies.”

Mon ami: Astrazeneca boss Pascal Soriot will invest £450 million in researching, developing and manufacturing new vaccines at its factory in Speke, Liverpool

The investment suggested Soriot’s confidence in Britain has been restored after he called the UK a “very unattractive” place to do business last February.

He pointed to Astra’s decision to build a factory in Ireland rather than Britain as evidence that Britain is becoming less attractive.

But Soriot told the Mail last month: ‘The environment in Britain for life sciences today is different from almost a year ago.’

And yesterday he said the planned investment will ‘increase Britain’s pandemic preparedness and demonstrate our confidence in the UK’s life sciences’.

Astra is already developing jabs for children in Speke, while the investment in Cambridge will support 1,000 jobs in a facility next to the £1.1 billion global research and development centre, which houses 2,300 researchers and scientists.

It is also opening a manufacturing site for one of its cancer drugs in Macclesfield this year, after announcing a £380 million investment in 2021. Soriot, 64, is credited with turning around the London-listed drugmaker’s fortunes.

Since he took over in 2012, the company’s shares have more than tripled.

And he oversaw the development of the company’s Covid vaccine, which helped lift lockdowns during the pandemic.

The company more than doubled its annual profits last year thanks to soaring sales of its cancer treatments.

Profits reached £5.5 billion in 2023, up from £1.9 billion the year before, while sales rose 3 percent to £36.3 billion.

The group said its revenue and earnings would be boosted this year by its blockbuster oncology drugs.

And this stellar achievement has been personally lucrative for Soriot, who secured his biggest wage deal last year, earning £16.9m – the fifth year in a row he has taken home more than £15m.

This brought his total earnings during his twelve-year tenure to £135 million.