(Adds missing letter in last paragraph)
* Christoph Franz to be elected at March 4 annual meeting
* Franz has been Roche board member since 2011
(Adds details, background)
By Caroline Copley
ZURICH, Sept 16 Roche has picked
Deutsche Lufthansa Chief Executive Christoph Franz to
succeed Franz Humer as chairman of its board, filling the top
post at a time of change for the world's biggest maker of cancer
Franz, 53, who has been a member of Roche's board since
2011, will stand for election at Roche's annual shareholder
meeting on March 4, the Swiss drugmaker said on Monday.
"Roche is getting a chairman with outstanding personal
qualities and an impressive record as head of a major global
company," said Humer, who is retiring as announced in March.
"I am sure that his extensive experience, exceptional global
network and strong links to Switzerland will be great assets."
While the move is a coup for Roche, whose family owners had
expressed a preference for an inside candidate, it comes as the
German airline is in the middle of a strategic overhaul to try
to cope with rising fuel costs and low-cost competition.
Analyst Fabian Wenner at brokerage Kepler Cheuvreux said
Franz fitted the demands of Roche's family owners by being a
German speaker with the right cultural connections, but there
would be questions over his depth of knowledge of the drugs
The Hoffman-Oeri family, descendents of Roche's founder
Fritz Hoffman-La Roche, hold 50.01 percent of the company's
shares and have a key say on who is chairman.
Although it will be a non-executive role, the new chairman
will have to navigate local politics as Swiss lawmakers hammer
out a new corporate tax law, and find his way in a global
industry in which some of Roche's top-selling medicines are
expected to face competition from cheaper copies from 2016.
One of his toughest challenges may be negotiating with
cross-town rival Novartis over the possible repurchase
of Novartis's stake in the company, analysts believe.
CHANGE OF GUARD
Novartis has also just appointed a new chairman and the
changing of the guard at Switzerland's two biggest drugmakers
has fuelled talk that Novartis may finally sell its
multi-billion-dollar stake in Roche.
Shares in Roche rose 0.6 percent by 0756 GMT to 238.1 Swiss
francs, in line with the European healthcare sector index
In a two-sentence statement, Lufthansa said Franz - who had
spent just over three years at the head of the German carrier -
had told it he would quit when his current term ends next May,
giving him eight more months to press on with his turnaround
Before becoming head of Lufthansa in January 2011, Franz had
been installed as CEO of Swiss International Air lines by the
German group after it purchased the ailing carrier and was
responsible for leading its recovery programme.
He still has his home base in Zurich, giving him the Swiss
local knowledge and connections in local business and politics
deemed crucial for the Roche chairmanship.
Reports suggest Lufthansa to pick an internal candidate to
replace Franz rather than bringing in an outsider.
German newspaper Die Welt cited industry sources as saying
Carsten Spohr, head of Lufthansa's passenger airlines business
and Lufthansa Cargo CEO Karl Ulrich Garnadt as candidates.
Sueddeutsche Zeitung also said Harry Hohmeister - in charge
of Lufthansa carriers Swiss, Austrian and Brussels Airlines -
could be named.
Franz, who studied industrial engineering and holds a
doctorate from Darmstadt Technical University in Germany, has
also worked at Deutsche Bahn for nine years.
(Additional reporting by Silke Koltrowitz in Zurich, Ben
Hirschler in London and Maria Sheahan in Frankfurt; Editing by
Mark Potter and David Holmes)