Shareholders at Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche welcomed the start of a new era as the company summarised recent events, including the divestment of the vitamins business, at its annual general meeting yesterday.
Addressing the AGM, attended by 601 shareholders, chairman and CEO Franz B. Humer spoke of the progress the group has made towards achieving its strategic goals.
"2002 signalled the end of one era and the start of a new one at Roche. In future the group will be concentrating entirely on its core pharmaceuticals and diagnostics businesses," said Humer.
Although still awaiting approval from the antitrust authorities, the sale of the vitamins and fine chemicals business to Dutch company DSM was completed earlier this year. The business recorded sales of approximately SF3.4 billion in 2002, according to the group, a mere 1 per cent increase on the previous year in local currencies and a decline of 4 per cent in Swiss francs.
Legal settlements with US vitamins customers, resulting in significant one-time charges for 2002, have also had an impact and Roche will be glad to move on from this period.
Roche also sold the flavours business Givaudan in 1999, while strategic acquisitions over recent years have included Boehringer Mannheim in 1998, Chugai in 2002 and Disetronic in 2003.
"As a result of this systematic reshaping process,"said Humer, "We have gone from being a niche player in diagnostics to a position of undisputed market leadership in the space of five years. Geographically, the group has been strengthened by its majority interest in Chugai in Japan, a transaction that has propelled Roche from 32nd place to number five in the world's second-largest market for pharmaceuticals."
Humer also outlined some of the important focus areas for the future, including the pharmaceuticals pipeline.