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Baxalta deal will boost Mass. operations, Shire CEO says

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“We will be a growth engine. We will continue to grow as a company and continue to grow in Boston,” Shire PLC chief executive Flemming Ornskov said.
“We will be a growth engine. We will continue to grow as a company and continue to grow in Boston,” Shire PLC chief executive Flemming Ornskov said.Michele McDonald for The Boston

SAN FRANCISCO — Flemming Ornskov, the expansion-minded chief executive of Shire PLC, didn't hesitate when asked what his drug company's $32 billion buyout of Baxalta Inc. means for Massachusetts, where both businesses have important operations.

"It means you get another anchor company," Ornskov said in an interview at the annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference. "We will have a significant research, development, and commercial presence in the Boston area. We will be a growth engine. We will continue to grow as a company and continue to grow in Boston."

Shire remains based in Dublin. But when he took over the company in 2013, Ornskov moved its operational base to Lexington, Mass., to tap into the brain power of the state's biopharma cluster and research universities and hospitals.

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It now employs 2,300 people in Lexington and more than 5,000 worldwide.

Baxalta was spun out as an independent company by Baxter International Inc. last summer and has about 16,000 employees worldwide. More than 500 are at a new research center in Cambridge, and it also has a plant in Milford that makes treatments for hemophilia.

Ornskov said the acquisition will result in $500 million in annual savings — some from shifting the Baxalta business to Ireland, which has a lower corporate rate. He added there could be initial consolidation of overlapping functions such as finance and human resources departments after the Baxalta takeover but ultimately the combined company will continue to grow.

"Shire has grown incredibly fast since I came aboard," said Ornskov, who has acquired about a dozen companies since taking over. "We added about 2,000 employees, most of them, if not all of them, in Massachusetts. I expect Shire will continue to grow after the deal."


Robert Weisman can be reached at robert.weisman@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeRobW.