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Roche’s new chairman promises continuity

March 4, 2014

By Caroline Copley and Mark Potter

BASEL (Reuters) – Christoph Franz promised to keep Roche <ROG.VX> on its current course after shareholders overwhelmingly elected him as new chairman of the Swiss drugmaker.

“One thing has become clear today. This company is on track and therefore continuity (…) is the order of the day,” Franz said on Tuesday, after 99.82 percent of shareholders approved his election as new chairman.

The 53-year-old outgoing Lufthansa <LHAG.DE> boss is inheriting a company at the top of its game. Roche boasts an enviable list of high-margin new cancer drugs and bumper profit margins.

Still, in the mid-term, Roche’s margins and profits could come under pressure, as more drugmakers crowd into the hot area of cancer research and encroach on Roche’s dominance.

This puts more pressure on Roche to move into a new therapeutic area, having had a string of failures with medicines to treat cardiovascular disease, diabetes and schizophrenia.

Outgoing chairman Franz Humer, who is stepping down after 16 years as CEO and chairman, thanked Roche’s majority shareholder, the Hoffmann-Oeri family, which owns 50.01 percent of the company’s share capital.

“It’s a privilege for Roche to be able to rely on such an engaged and faithful group of majority shareholders and shareholders. Many of our competitors are envious of this,” Humer said, wiping tears away from his eyes.

(Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by Mark Potter)