Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Nicklaus: Sigma-Aldrich Sale Complicates St. Louis' BioBelt Efforts

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Nicklaus: Sigma-Aldrich Sale Complicates St. Louis' BioBelt Efforts

Article excerpt

St. Louis' BioBelt marketing efforts just got a little more complicated.

When civic leaders talk about this region's assets as a home for life-sciences companies, Sigma-Aldrich is typically near the head of the list. Now Sigma-Aldrich is being sold to Merck KGaA in a $17 billion deal announced Monday.

Instead of bragging about the headquarters of an 80-year-old research chemical company with 9,000 worldwide employees, St. Louis will merely be one of many global outposts for a large German chemical and drug company.

Even the size of that outpost is in doubt. Merck promised to keep a "significant presence" here, but it made the same promise to Billerica, Mass., where its EMD Millipore business competes with Sigma-Aldrich. Merck also pledged to cut costs by $340 million a year, which means layoffs somewhere are inevitable.

The first worry is whether those layoffs will be concentrated in St. Louis, where Sigma-Aldrich employs 1,800.

"The decision makers will be the people in Germany, so I have to say that I'm concerned," said Robert Calcaterra, a principal at Startup Midwest Management and a player in efforts to promote life sciences here. "Things may change and they may relocate some of the operations."

Rodney Crim, president of the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, said he hopes to meet with company officials. "We will be very proactive in talking and working with them to make sure that the things they said, we help to encourage," Crim said. "They said they are committed to St. Louis."

Crim said he didn't view the takeover as a negative, but rather as recognition "that this company is doing extremely well and that they have been able to attract great talent" in St. Louis.

The deal could benefit Sigma employees if Merck sees St. Louis as an attractive base for its U.S. research-chemicals business. So far, it's not saying how the organization will be structured after the deal. …

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