Benchmark Holdings sells vaccine manufacturing facility to company part of Government Vaccine Taskforce for £16 million

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Sold to Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult. The total potential consideration from recent disposals, including this sale, is now GBP 42 million.

In a statement on the London Stock Exchange, Benchmark Holdings writes that has entered into a business purchase agreement relating to the business and assets comprising its vaccine manufacturing facility at Braintree, UK, to Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult for GBP 16 million.

Vaccine strategy
The consideration is gross of certain exit and transaction costs are currently estimated to be GBP 4 million.

Earlier this year Benchmark announced that it had initiated a review of its vaccine strategy, including manufacturing and R&D, to determine the best route to deliver a return from its investment in this business to date.

The sale to CGT Catapult will bolster the British Government’s plan to scale its efforts to manufacture human vaccines in response to Covid-19.

CGT Catapult
“CGT Catapult is a centre of excellence in innovation, with the core purpose of building a world-leading cell and gene therapy sector in the UK as a key part of a global industry. CGT Catapult is supported by Innovate UK, with a mission to drive the growth of the industry by helping cell and gene therapy organisations across the world translate early stage research into commercially viable and investable therapies. CGT Catapult counts over 230 experts, state of the art development and viral vector laboratories and a large scale GMP manufacturing centre helping bring cell and gene therapies to market in the UK and internationally,” wrote Benchmark.

“The Government’s strategy to build infrastructure in the UK to scale the manufacture of vaccines and therapeutics in support of the response to Covid-19 created a perfect solution to ensure that our vaccine manufacturing facility is put to best use and to secure employment for its workforce. Benchmark’s Braintree facility and team have a wide range of GMP (good manufacturing practice) accredited capabilities including antigen production, formulation, process development and scale manufacturing and can be rapidly repurposed to produce human vaccines. The state of the art facility, which was completed in 2017, employs 75 highly qualified staff who we are delighted to announce will transfer to CGT Catapult on completion of the sale,” it added.

Benchmark wrote that the transaction is a “significant milestone in Benchmark’s strategy to reduce its cost base and focus on its core areas to achieve profitability” and the proceeds from the sale do not represent a profit to Benchmark, but are based on the facility’s asset value and have been agreed to support the Government’s vaccine strategy. “The proceeds will further strengthen the Group’s financial position and liquidity, with total potential consideration from recent disposals, including this sale, of GBP 42 million, wrote the aquaculture company.

Streamlined
CEO Trond Williksen said that he “very pleased to announce this transaction which is another significant step forward in our strategy of becoming a streamlined, profitable business focused on our key areas of competency”.

“Benchmark is also delighted that the timing and conclusion of our vaccine strategy review coincides with the need to scale capabilities to manufacture human vaccines in response to Covid-19 and that the talented team at Benchmark will become part of this critical effort,” he added.

“We were in the process of evaluating this sector when Covid-19 broke, and following communications with Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government Vaccine Taskforce, and with special thanks to the hard work of Kate Bingham and her team, this is the outcome. I am delighted that we have a long-term solution for the workforce, which has always been our desired outcome. I would like to highlight the Government’s foresight in identifying the possibilities here and moving quickly on this decision,” said Benchmark Chairman Peter George.