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Head of BZ bank group sells shares in Roche

Swiss financier, Martin Ebner, has fought for increased voting rights for company shareholders. Keystone

The Swiss financier, Martin Ebner, has sold all his shares in the pharmaceutical company, Roche. The BZ bank said its Pharma Vision unit had divested itself of its entire stake in the company, worth SFr517 million ($300 million).

Last February Ebner demanded that Roche create a unified share structure so shareholders’ influence would more accurately reflect their holdings.

The effect would have been to give him a greater say in the running of the company – at the time, the founding family owned more than 50 per cent of the shares with voting rights.

“A classic simple shareholder structure can lead to increased value for all shareholders,” said Ebner.

In the wake of the sale, BZ’s Pharma Vision lacks a strategy for the future, said Kurt Schiltknecht, spokesman of the BZ group. “We do not know where the group is heading anymore.”

Roche, for its part, would not comment on Ebner’s decision. “We do not comment on the decisions made by shareholders to buy or sell their stakes” said spokesman, Daniel Piller.

Ebner is one of Switzerland’s wealthiest men, with a 44 per cent stake in the BZ Group Investment Bank. He has been a fierce critic of various companies’ shareholder structure.

At the end of the first quarter, 21.6 per cent of Pharma Vision funds were invested in Roche, down from 30.6 per cent the year before. At the beginning of the year, Ebner held 16.3 per cent of the votes in Roche.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR