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Ascom kicks off business week

Urs Fischer, chief executive of Ascom, is set to unveil the group's latest numbers on Monday morning

(Keystone)

Another clutch of blue chip numbers will be released over the coming week as the interim reporting season continues. Bern-based technology group Ascom will head off the reports with half-time numbers on Monday.

Ascom said in July that it saw no reason to change its 2001 profit outlook even though some divisions were encountering "business cycle headwinds", according to chief executive Urs Fischer.

Ascom announced a month earlier its plans to cut 1,100 jobs as part of the reorganisation drive Fischer launched when he took over earlier in the year.

Brokers have been cutting their earnings forecasts for the company as the reorganisation could generate as much as SFr20 million in provisions.

Retail to real estate group, Jelmoli, is expected to reveal a positive set of profit numbers on Tuesday following the release of sales figures in July.

These showed a 25 per cent increase in first-half sales at SFr531.1 million. The company said at the time it expected to reach targeted earnings over the first six months of 2001.

It should be a similar story at foods group, Bon Appetit. The company predicted good interim earnings, due for release on Tuesday. Last month it disclosed a 6.1 per cent increase in its six-month sales, to SFr1.55 billion.

By Wednesday, attention will be focused on Swissair Group regional subsidiary Crossair.

Following parent company Swissair's SFr234 million losses over the first half, analysts will be keen to see how Crossair is doing and what, if any, rationalisation of routes may be in the offing.
News of half-time numbers comes from the world's second biggest cement group, Swiss Holcim, on Thursday.

The company is sticking to its forecast for a five per cent rise in operating profit despite a downturn in sales at its Mexican subsidiary.

Also reporting interim results on Thursday will be Europe's third largest insurer, Zurich Financial.

It's been under pressure on the markets after reports that investors withdrew a billion dollars worth of cash from Zurich Scudder Investments, Zurich's United States-based funds firm.

Speculation is growing that Zurich may decide to sell its Scudder operation to Germany's Deutsche Bank.

On Friday it's the turn of the world's second largest reinsurance group, Swiss Re, to uncover its six-month figures.

Following its $2 billion cash purchase of the reinsurance business of Lincoln National market rumours have been circulating that more acquisitions might be announced at the results conference on Friday.

On the economics front unemployment numbers for August are released at the end of the week.

Unemployment in July stood at 1.7 per cent, with most analysts expecting the jobless rate to remain under 2.0 per cent for the remainder of the year, despite the recent increase in redundancy announcements.

by Tom O'Brien

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