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Ozempic giant’s USD2.3 billion expansion

BLOOMBERG – Novo Nordisk A/S plans to invest EUR2.1 billion (USD2.3 billion) to expand production in France as it works to meet surging demand for its sought-after weight-loss medicines.

The construction work to beef up the Danish company’s site in Chartres, southwest of Paris, has already started, Novo said in a statement. The investment will increase capacity for the diet drug Wegovy and its sister product for diabetes, called Ozempic.

Novo is racing to build out factories and production lines as competition intensifies in a weight-loss market estimated to reach USD100 billion by the end of the decade. For French President Emmanuel Macron, spurring a reversal of the country’s industrial decline has been a key economic goal.

The factory makes pre-filled injector pens, which patients need to use Ozempic and Wegovy, as well as insulin.

The investment will more than double the site’s footprint and create more than 500 new jobs, Novo said.

French President Emmanuel Macron visited Novo’s plant in Chartres to congratulate the firm and its CEO, Lars Fruergaard Jorgensen, and to promote the changes under his watch to make France more business-friendly.

“We have everything we need to succeed: We have great foreign champions that have chosen France, like Novo, and great traditional French champions,” Macron said.

The frenzy around the drugs, endorsed by celebrities and entrepreneurs including Elon Musk, turned Novo into Europe’s most valuable company, sending its stock up by about half this year. The shares rose one per cent in Copenhagen on Thursday.

Earlier this month, the drug-maker unveiled a plan to invest more than USD6 billion to build a 170,000 square-meter manufacturing facility in Denmark.

Novo has faced shortages of Ozempic and Wegovy, with some diabetes patients struggling to stay on treatment. Both medicines contain the same active ingredient, semaglutide, which mimics the action of a gut hormone and makes people feel full.

Novo Nordisk’s headquarters, whose design was inspired by an insulin molecule. PHOTO: CARSTEN SNEJBJERG VIA BLOOMBERG

Few Countries

Wegovy has been shown to help users shed about 15 per cent of their body weight on average, and recent studies also demonstrated heart benefits.

Novo has so far only introduced the drug in a handful of countries. Access in France was first restricted to morbidly obese patients with another risk factor such as heart disease or sleep apnoea, and the treatment hasn’t officially launched there.

Macron laid out a series of measures earlier this year to revive French industry, including expanded use of tax credits for investment and streamlining procedures to open new factories.

A Macron aide didn’t respond to a question on whether the investment includes public subsidies.

Thursday’s news comes on top of a EUR130 million investment into expanding capacity in Chartres that Novo announced in January. The site currently employs more than 1,500 people and produces insulin used by more than eight million patients worldwide.