Roche taps turnaround vet to replace CFO

Roche has recruited a new CFO who's noted for his turnaround expertise. Alan Hippe, late of the stainless steel company ThyssenKrupp, will join the Swiss drugmaker in April. He'll replace Erich Hunziker, who will retire at the end of March.

A pharma outsider, Hippe will join Roche at a time when the company is looking to cut costs through a worldwide restructuring program. Furthermore, the drug business as a whole is going through a tectonic shift, with a host of blockbuster medications going off patent and fewer replacements waiting in the wings. The hope is that Hippe's experience with the beleaguered steel and auto industries will translate into success in today's tough environment for pharma.

As Reuters notes, Hippe has been credited with the successful turnaround at ThyssenKrupp, and investors are hoping he'll be able to improve Roche's efficiency and accelerate paydown of the debt it accumulated after the $46.8 billion buyout of Genentech in 2009. "The real challenge is to bring down the debt after the Genentech deal so that they have more strategic flexibility," Helvea analyst Karl-Heinz Koch told the news service. "At the moment, Roche can't go for any significant M&A to shore up its pipeline because it is too leveraged."

- see the Roche release 
- get the Reuters article