UPDATE 1-Roche picks Lufthansa boss Franz as new chairman
* Christoph Franz to be elected at March 4 annual meeting
* Franz has been Roche board member since 2011
ZURICH, Sept 16 (Reuters) - 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 drugs.
Franz 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. I am sure that his extensive experience, exceptional global network and strong links to Switzerland will be great assets," Humer said.
German airline Lufthansa announced on Monday Franz, who has been a member of Roche's board since 2011, was not available for a further term as CEO.
Kepler Cheuvreux analyst Fabian Wenner 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 industry.
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.
Novartis has also just got 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.
Media had reported at the weekend that Franz was in talks to leave Lufthansa and was in pole position to take over as Roche chairman.