* Supervisory board sees ex-SAP CFO as suitable chair candidate
* Supervisory board Chairman Schneider to step down next year
* Brandt seen as number cruncher, well-connected (Adds source and political connections)
By Christoph Steitz and Ilona Wissenbach
FRANKFURT, Sept 18 (Reuters) - RWE named former SAP finance chief Werner Brandt as its clear favourite to take over as chairman next year, with the supervisory board presenting a rare united front to end weeks of media speculation.
Chairman Manfred Schneider, 76, is set to step down in 2016 after having held the top job for seven years. RWE’s supervisory board is notorious for political infighting, with the battle for key positions usually fought out in the media.
“The current supervisory board is of the clear opinion that Dr. Werner Brandt is a very suitable candidate for the continuity of the supervisory board, which includes his possible election as future chairman,” the company said in a statement, following Friday’s supervisory board meeting.
If appointed, Brandt would take over as chairman at a time when Germany’s largest power producer faces the worst crisis in its 117-year history, suffering from low wholesale power prices, a surge in renewable capacity and uncertainty over the size of provisions for the shutdown of its nuclear plants.
SAP’s Chief Financial Officer from 2001 to 2014, Brandt made his mark as a number cruncher, steering the business software maker through several takeovers without putting the company’s financial position at risk.
During his time as CFO, Brandt, 61, kept a low profile, avoiding the spotlight in favour of SAP’s CEOs.
Having joined RWE’s supervisory board in 2013, Brandt is heading the body’s auditing committee and is seen as well-connected politically, sources familiar with the matter say, an asset that could help RWE, given its dependence on government decisions.
RWE said that the new chairman will be determined by the supervisory board following RWE’s next annual general meeting, scheduled for April 20, 2016.
Sources had previously told Reuters that current chairman Schneider favoured Brandt, while powerful municipal shareholders and labour representatives backed Werner Mueller, former German Economy Minister and head of coal foundation RAG.
$1 = 0.8761 euros Additional reporting by Tom Kaeckenhoff in Duesseldorf; Editing by Maria Sheahan and Elaine Hardcastle