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Roche boss says Novartis merger "off the table"

Roche boss, Franz Humer, has hosed down speculation of a merger with Novartis Keystone Archive

Franz Humer, the chairman and chief executive of Swiss pharmaceuticals giant Roche, has moved to stymie all speculation of a merger with rival Novartis.

This content was published on September 8, 2002 - 13:48

"This subject is off the table," Humer told the Swiss Sunday paper, SonntagsZeitung.

"The board, management and family pool (that controls most of Roche's voting rights) have made their position clear," he said.

Rumours that the two companies could merge into one giant healthcare group have electrified Swiss financial gossip circles for months.

Talk of a mega-merger between the Basel-based firms took off last year after Novartis built a voting stake in Roche of over 20 per cent.

Mega-merger dampens "innovation"

But Roche has repeatedly said it has no interest in a union. In addition, market observers say a merger remains unlikely so long as the families that control Roche insist on the group's independence.

Humer told the newspaper he was "no devotee of mega-mergers".

"The decisive [factor] in healthcare, pharmacology and diagnostics is innovation and innovation is not linked to size," he said.

"For me, it's much more important to lead a business that is flexible, quick to market and that can optimise innovations."

Job cut target almost reached

Humer also said that Roche was close to reaching its goal - announced last year - of eliminating 3,000 jobs.

To date, some 2,700 positions have gone, with the remaining 300 to go through reorganisation, particularly in the company's production side.

swissinfo with agencies.

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