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Roche board meets to discuss job cuts

Roche CEO Franz B. Humer says the company is not facing a crisis Keystone Archive

The Basel-based Roche healthcare group is holding an unscheduled board meeting on Monday to discuss a restructuring of its flagship drugs business. The shake-up is expected to result in thousands of job cuts on both sides of the Atlantic.

This content was published on May 14, 2001 - 09:12

The board is also expected to weigh up its options after its larger Swiss rival, Novartis, bought a 20 per cent stake in Roche in a surprise move last week.

Roche's chairman and chief executive, Franz Humer, denied the board was holding an emergency meeting. He said the decision to bring the meeting forward from its original date in September had been taken before Novartis acquired its stake.

"I think it's not right to call this a crisis," Humer said, in comments carried by Britain's "Financial Times". "Clearly we have some issues and we are moving plans forward to address these very aggressively."

In an interview at the weekend with the Swiss German-language newspaper, "SonntagsBlick", Humer confirmed the group was considering job cuts, but refused to confirm speculation that up to 10,000 posts could be lost in the drugs division.

"It is too early to mention concrete figures," Humer said, adding: "I cannot rule out job reductions on a global level."

Humer said any job losses would be discussed with staff first and would not be announced before the end of May at the earliest.

The Roche chairman has already said jobs cuts could be necessary to reduce costs in the drugs division, which accounts for nearly two-thirds of the group's workforce of 65,000 people.

Sales have been disappointing recently and there has been a series of setbacks in the development of new products. Humer is expected to present the board with a comprehensive plan to improve performance in the division.

Humer said Roche would consider possible cooperation with Novartis, as the company already cooperates with a number of other pharmaceutical firms. But he ruled out any merger between the groups, saying this was "absolutely not a topic".

Speculation about a group restructuring has been growing since Novartis acquired its stake in Roche and Humer announced that he had dismissed his recently appointed finance director, Anton Affentrager.

swissinfo with agencies

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