Roche will not be for sale, vice chairman tells paper

ZURICH (Reuters) – Roche (ROG.VX: Quote, Profile, Research) will not be up for sale in future and one investor’s exit from the group’s controlling shareholder pact does not mean the family is running away from the Swiss drugmaker, one of the pool’s members was quoted saying.

The family group, which has controlled Roche Holding AG for decades, now holds 45.01 percent, down from 50.01 percent after Maja Oeri decided to exercise her shareholder rights independently, leaving an agreement that has existed since 1948.

This move could leave Roche vulnerable to being taken over and some speculated last week that Novartis, which owns a third of the voting rights in Roche, may rekindle its interest in the group after making a play for its cross-town rival in 2004.

But Andre Hoffmann, spokesman for the family group and also vice chairman of Roche, said the shareholders would continue to protect Roche’s independence.

“Roche will also not be up for sale in the future. From our point of view a fusion of Roche and Novartis makes even less sense than it did five or 10 years ago,” Hoffmann was quoted saying in an interview with Swiss newspaper SonntagsZeitung on Sunday.

“The two groups have strategically positioned themselves quite differently. Novartis has additional pillars with eye medicine and generics. Roche is concentrating on personalized medicine with innovative pharma and diagnostics. That doesn’t go together,” Hoffmann said.

Hoffmann also said Maja Oeri’s decision was not entirely unexpected.

“Maja Oeri had signaled to the other family members already a few years ago that in time she would like to exercise her shareholder rights independently,” Hoffmann said, adding the other members respected this decision.

Hoffmann said it was wrong to think that the Oeri and Hoffmann families were turning away from Roche just because of Maja Oeri’s decision and that of Beatrice Oeri two years ago to leave the pool.

Roche is trying to find its feet after a string of product setbacks last year knocked around one-fifth off its stock price.

(Reporting by Katie Reid; Editing by David Holmes)

Roche will not be for sale, vice chairman tells paper