(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 24th Mar 2020) London, Uk – –
Ineos in talks with NHS on supplying products to hospitals for free
Ineos, the chemicals company controlled by the billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe, is planning to build two hand sanitiser factories in just 10 days as part of the effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The UK’s biggest private company by sales aims to produce a million bottles of hand sanitiser a month when the plant is in operation, with talks under way with the NHS on supplying the products to hospitals for free.
One factory will be at an existing Ineos site at Newton Aycliffe, near Middlesbrough, while the other will be built in Germany.
Other companies have pledged to use their factories to make hand sanitiser. The independent brewer BrewDog made its first deliveries of free hand sanitiser from its distillery in Aberdeenshire to the NHS’s Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, while France’s LVMH, owner of brands such as Louis Vuitton, Moët & Chandon and Hennessy, has also pledged to switch over its perfume factories.
Tom Crotty, a director at Ineos, said the company had started planning for the factory a week ago, after increasing alcohol production and receiving fast-tracked regulatory approvals.
Ineos is Europe’s largest producer of two of the key ingredients of hand sanitiser, isopropyl alcohol and ethanol, at its factories in Grangemouth, Scotland, and in Germany, but it had found that hand sanitiser producers were all running at full tilt.
“We figured that we’d already pushed as much of our product as possible into these uses but there’s a limit on capacity to produce the gel,” Crotty said. Switching the lines would cost about £2m in the short term, he added, but the company had not yet assessed the potential size of the longer-term market, given the urgent need.
Ratcliffe, whose stake in Ineos is thought to have made him Britain’s third richest person with an £18bn fortune, said he hoped to produce “very substantial supplies” of hand sanitiser for hospital and private use, with talks under way with retailers on making 50ml “pocket bottles” and 250ml containers available to consumers.
Ineos’s pledge comes as the manufacturing sector in Britain and around the world tries to adjust to the needs of countries in pandemic lockdowns.
The UK government last week asked companies to step forward to help it produce ventilators to help people for whom Covid-19 made breathing difficult.
Aerospace and automotive manufacturers were among those asked by Boris Johnson to rapidly retool their factories to build ventilator parts, with a need for 20,000 at short notice.
The aircraft manufacturer Airbus and the carmakers Nissan and McLaren are among the companies thought to be working to produce parts, using existing facilities that in many cases already have the clean environments needed for medical devices.
By Jasper Jolly