Roche CEO to step down in 2008, first-half sales up 15%

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Roche said yesterday its CEO Franz Humer will leave his post in March 2008 as the company separates its chief executive and chairman's jobs.

Humer, 61, will remain the company's chairman of the board. He will be replaced as CEO by Severin Schwan, leader of Roche's diagnostics division since last January. At age 40, Schwan will be the youngest CEO ever for the Swiss drugmaker. Schwan has worked at Roche since 1993, when he joined the company as a finance officer in Basel.

Meanwhile, Humer will take on responsibilities as chairman of Diageo, the world's biggest liquor company, next July. Humer, 61, became a non-executive board member at Diageo in 2005.

Roche also reported yesterday that its first-half sales rose 15% to $19 billion with sales of prescription drugs up 17% to $15.2 billion.

The drug maker benefited from sales of its flu treatment Tamiflu, which saw sales rise 39% in the first half to $1.1 billion.

Roche's top-selling Rx drug, MabThera for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, saw a first-half sales increase of 16% to $2.25 billion. Breast cancer drug Herceptin's first-half sales rose 30% in to nearly $2 billion. Tumor treatment Avastin sales were up 40% in the first-half to $1.6 billion.  

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