March 11, 2015 / 3:06 AM / in 3 years

Drugmaker GSK to steer Asian business from new Singapore headquarters

SINGAPORE/LONDON (Reuters) - Drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L) will establish a new headquarters for Asia in Singapore to make quicker decisions for the region, a move that follows a recent rocky ride in China due to a damaging bribery scandal.

The signage for the GlaxoSmithKline building is pictured in Hounslow, west London June 18, 2013. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

The British-based group said it expects its pharmaceutical, consumer healthcare and vaccine businesses to grow significantly faster in Asia than in the rest of the world.

“While we expect it to be a bit slower going forward than it was five years ago, we still think it’s going to be a very vibrant growth area,” Chief Executive Andrew Witty told reporters.

Witty has made emerging markets a priority for GSK since taking over in 2008.

GSK has over 700 office-based employees in Singapore and expects an additional 100 roles to move into the country as the headquarters nears completion. Construction is expected to be finished by the end of 2016.

Asia business decisions are currently mainly handled out of London.

Last year, the drugmaker was fined 3 billion yuan ($479 million) in China following allegations in 2013 it funneled funds to travel agencies to facilitate bribes to doctors and officials. The high-profile case hit GSK’s drug sales in the country.

It is dismissing 110 employees in China for misconduct, people familiar with the matter said this month.

“I don’t have an expectation that there will be more people leaving, but equally if we found somebody else who did something wrong then they would go through the process and whatever would happen would happen,” Witty said.

GSK’s move follows similar ones by other global companies, including automaker General Motors Co (GM.N), which moved its international operations headquarters to the city-state last year.

Companies are lured to Singapore by its competitive tax rates, use of the English language, skilled workforce and high standards of living.

Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan and Ben Hirschler; Editing by Tom Heneghan and Edwina Gibbs

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