Roche decided yesterday against the curvaceous skyscraper that would have served as its eye-catching new Basel headquarters, in a move immediately seen as a money-saving reaction to the credit crisis.
Franz Humer, chairman, denied the decision to scrap the project by local architects Herzog & de Meuron was penny pinching. But he admitted the board of the Basel-based drugs group had been influenced by fears of going steeply over budget because pioneering technologies in the new building had proved hard to cost, while operating and maintenance charges would be high.
The move was additionally coloured by uncertainties over future levels of profitability in the pharmaceuticals industry – traditionally known for its high margins – and anxieties about sending the wrong signal at a time of uncertainty. 'This was not an easy decision to take,' said Humer. Roche, based on the river Rhine, is closely identified with its home town – partly because it is still controlled by its founding families – and has a tradition of distinctive architecture.