A billionaire Manchester businessman has pledged to build two hand sanitiser factories in just ten days to help tackle shortages across the UK.
Born and raised in Oldham, in 2018 Sir Jim Ratcliffe was named the richest person in the UK with a net worth of £21.05 billion.
A chemical engineer turned financier industrialist, he has typically kept a low media profile and has been described by the Sunday Times as “publicity-shy”, but is now hitting the headlines after the plans were revealed this week.
His firm Ineos is already Europe’s largest producer of two of the key ingredients of hand sanitiser: isopropyl alcohol and ethanol.
It plans to build two factories, one at an existing company site in Newton Aycliffe near Middlesbrough, the other in Germany, in a bid to help tackle the spread of Covid-19.
The firm is hoping to create “very substantial supplies” for public and private use, and is currently in talks with the NHS about supplying the products to hospitals for free.
The plans have already been in place for a week, said Tom Crotty, a director at Ineos, adding: “We figured that we’d already pushed as much of our product as possible into these uses but there’s a limit on capacity to produce the gel.”
The pledge comes as manufacturing businesses around the country adjust in order to meet the needs of the crisis.
Independent breweries and distilleries have also begun using their alcohol supplies to make hand sanitiser for the public, whilst aerospace and automotive manufacturers have been called upon by the government to assist in building much-needed ventilator parts.