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Ascom to sell business unit

Ascom says it hopes to finalise the sale of its Electronic Transactions business later this year


Switzerland's troubled high-tech firm, Ascom, has received an undisclosed offer for its Electronic Transactions business.

The Bern-based company on Tuesday said it expected to finalise the sale of Electronic Transactions to French telecommunications group, Sagem, in the second half of 2002.

The deal would have a "positive cash impact" on the company's balance sheet, it said.

Electronic Transactions employs about 180 employees and makes payment terminals and vending machines - businesses that are no longer considered part of Ascom's core activities.

The deal comes at a difficult time for the company, which this year has struggled to rebound from a loss in 2001 of SFr395.5 million ($253.7 million).

Powerline problems

It is also facing problems with its Powerline technology, which provides high-speed Internet connections through the electricity power supply of a building.

Powerline is a key part of the company's revival strategy, with Ascom executives predicting last year that it would achieve sales of between SFr200-300 million. In 2001, it generated an operating loss of SFr67 million.

Press reports last month cast doubt about the viability of Powerline, when newspapers reported that German electricity utility, RWE AG, would stop using Ascom's Powerline technology.

Shares in Ascom, which employs around 9,000 employees worldwide, last week hit an all-time low of SFr10.75, amid analyst concern about its future in a generally weak telecom and telecommunications market.

swissinfo with agencies

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