Unilever prepares to put Wirral site on market

The consumer goods giant is to sell part of its Port Sunlight research and development facility, from which it is relocating staff in a cost-cutting drive.

The Port Sunlight factory and research facility, one of Unilever’s oldest sites built 50 years ago, sits next to Quarry Road East and St Andrews Road in Bebington, Wirral.

The company in 2018 completed the construction of a £24m North West advanced manufacturing centre, spanning 65,000 sq ft and expanding its operations at the site to enable scientists to test ideas for personal and home care product development.

Around 1,800 staff are employed at Port Sunlight, including 750 scientists, with the brands manufactured on site including Dove, Domestos and Comfort.

However, earlier this year, Unilever announced 225 job cuts at Port Sunlight as part of a cost cutting programme. The company reported a 33% decline in annual pre-tax profit to €8.2bn in 2019, which it attributed to challenging market conditions.

As part of the plans, existing Port Sunlight staff are to relocate into the newer parts of the campus – the Advanced Manufacturing Centre – with Unilever investing a further £40m to upgrade its facilities including laboratories and other workspaces.

It has now emerged that the company intends to sell older parts of the site, although it declined to say exactly what properties would be included in a sale.

A Unilever spokesperson said: “We shared details with our employees in February of a planned investment in one of our existing buildings on our Port Sunlight Research & Development Site to create an upgraded laboratory, consumer centre, collaboration space and restaurant facilities, in one of our existing buildings on site.

“The intention is to also vacate buildings and sell part of the site which is adjacent to Quarry Road East and part of St Andrew’s Road.

“Our site was built more than 50 years ago and the way we do R&D has changed significantly during this time.

“Going forward, all our employees will be accommodated in the modern, leading-edge facilities we’ve recently invested in, including our Advanced Manufacturing Centre, the world-class Materials Innovation Factory at the University of Liverpool and what will be our new, upgraded laboratory and workspace.”

It is understood that Unilever has yet to appoint agents to market the property.

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