THE billionaire head of a chemicals company plans to build a hand sanitiser factory in 10 days and make a million bottles a month.

New Forest resident Sir Jim Ratcliffe says his company, Ineos, will build the first plant near Middlesbrough and a second factory in Germany.

It will provide the products free for hospitals.

Ineos, whose registered office is in Lyndhurst, is Europe’s largest producer of the two key raw materials needed for hospital grade sanitiser. Between its sites in Grangemouth, Scotland, and in northern Germany, it produces almost a million tonnes of the products a year.

The company says it will concentrate on front line medical and care services as well as making pocket bottle hand sanitisers for personal use.

It will supply hospitals, schools, places of work, pharmacies and supermarkets.

The product will be free to the NHS for the duration of the crisis.

Sir Jim, founder and chairman of Ineos, said: “It is becoming increasingly clear that hand to mouth infection is a significant cause of Corona virus contagion and Ineos is Europe’s largest manufacturer of the core ingredient of hand sanitiser. We will build two factories in the UK and Germany in 10 days to produce very substantial supplies.”

He added: “Ineos is a company with enormous resources and manufacturing skills. If we can find other ways to help in the coronavirus battle, we are absolutely committed to playing our part.”

The company said: “Ineos takes its corporate and social responsibilities extremely seriously.

“Its products are essential to the production of essential healthcare products from rubber gloves, to PVC saline drips, syringes, ventilators, medical tubing.

“Its products purify the public drinking water. It produces raw materials for soap, acetone for aspirin and paracetamol, and its phenol is being used in pharmaceutical analysis essential in procedures necessary to find a vaccine.”

Sir Jim, 67, whose home is at Beaulieu, was named Britain’s richest man in the Sunday Times Rich List of 2018, when he was said to be worth £21billion.

He spent several years in planning battles with New Forest District Council to build a home overlooking the Solent.