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Roche financial chief fired

Roche denied Affentranger's sacking was influenced by Novartis' surprise share purchase Keystone Archive

The head of corporate finances at the Swiss pharmaceutical company, Roche, has been fired 24 hours after the firm's rival, Novartis, bought a 20 per cent stake in the company for SFr4.8 billion ($2.8 billion).

From its headquarters in Basel, Roche said that Anton Affentranger would step down at the end of the month. No reason for the decision has yet been given.

Roche thanked Affentranger for his “valuable services, high level of competence and professionalism”. His position is to be temporarily filled by Bernd Wolff and Erwin Schneider.

The 44-year-old Affentranger only took up his post at the start of the year, succeeding Henry B. Meier. Before joining Roche, Affentranger worked at the Geneva bank, Lombard Odier.

The head of Roche, Franz Humer, said that it was his decision to release Affentranger. “I respect Affentranger but, sometimes, the chemistry between certain people is just not there,” he said.

Humer denied that the decision was influenced by Monday’s surprise purchase of shares by Roche’s cross-city rivals, Novartis .

The drugs and health care group said it would pay Swiss financier Martin Ebner’s BZ Group SFr151 per share for the 20 per cent stake.

Novartis’ chairman and chief executive, Daniel Vasella, described the purchase as a “long-term financial investment that is also strategic in nature.”

Roche has been struggling to boost business in its key pharmaceutical division. The company said only last week that it was looking to reduce costs in the future. The pharma unit has suffered from disappointing sales and the development of its product pipeline has also suffered a series of setbacks.

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