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Ascom sets negative trend to business week

Poor results at Adecco set the tone for the business week


A clutch of negative results dominated the business week in Switzerland, with the telecommunications group Ascom, revealing on Monday a net loss of SFr26 million ($15.5 million) for the first half of the current year.

A company statement said the loss was not unexpected, but some analysts had forecast net earnings at above SFr30 million. The figure compared with earnings of SFr60 million for the first half of 2000.

Later, Crossair, the regional carrier which is part of the Swissair Group, reported on Wednesday that it lost SFr17.8 million ($10.44 million) in the first six months, compared with a loss of SFr6.1 million for the comparable period last year.

However, Crossair said comparisons of its financial situation within the industry were "favourable".

Zurich Financial results

Zurich Financial Services on Thursday posted a 13.2 per cent decrease in first half earnings for the first six months of the year. The poor performance was broadly in line with analysts' expectations after two profit warnings earlier this year.

Europe's third-largest insurer showed a first-half "normalised" net profit of SFr1.57 billion ($922 million), down from SFr1.87 billion for the comparable period in 2000.

The company's chairman and chief executive, Rolf Hüppi, said in a statement that the firm had suffered from depressed equity markets, declining interest rates, a strong dollar and the weaker economic outlook.

Poor results from the financial sector continued on Friday as the world's second largest reinsurance group, Swiss Re, saw net profit fall sharply in the first half of 2001 in the absence of large investment gains seen in the first six months of 2000.

Net income came out at SFr1.35 billion ($0.8 billion) after SFr3.01 billion in the same period in 2000.

A ray of sun

One bright spot on the horizon was the world's second biggest cement producer, Holcim, which posted better than expected first-half figures on Thursday but saw a flat operating profit for the year as a whole.

The Swiss group saw its first-half earnings increase 12.8 per cent to SFr397 million ($233 million). Analysts had expected about SFr354 million.

Despite an eight per cent drop in six month net earnings, Swiss digital television technology group Kudelski insisted that it still expected profits to rise for the full year because of new contracts and growth of existing cable company customers.

On the economic front, unemployment figures released on Friday edged up slightly with 61,079 people registered as out of work in August compared to 60,166 jobless in July.

However the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 1.7 per cent.

by Tom O'Brien


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