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Kuoni set to dominate headlines

Board members have called for the resignation of Kuoni chairman Daniel Affolter

Traders will be keen this week to watch the latest developments in the war of words that has been developing over the future of Switzerland's largest travel group, Kuoni.

Chief executive Hans Lerch and five board members called last Thursday for the resignation of the chairman, Daniel Affolter, and Alfred Kuoni, founder and president of the Kuoni and Hugentobler foundation.

They accuse them of arranging for the foundation to pay out some SFr12 million to its own board trustees. Of this, Affolter is said to have pocketed just over SFr8 million.

Affolter and Alfred Kuoni have so far rejected the allegations, accusing the dissident board members of planning an attack on Kuoni’s independence and suggested that insiders at Kuoni could be helping an outside company to take over the travel group.

In a further development, Affolter told the SonntagsZeitung newspaper that he intended to hand his bonus over to the charity, SOS Children’s Villages. “I have been in contact with SOS Children’s Villages for several months and I have announced a major donation,” he revealed.

Affolter also told the newspaper that his resignation was “not on the agenda”.

A smoother ride is expected for the management at Tuesday’s annual meeting of retail group Jelmoli. With net profits at the company up 14 per cent last year, shareholders will now have the chance to look at the company’s policy of stepping up investment in real estate.

Shareholders of technology group Gretag Imaging are set to ask some tricky questions of management at their annual general meting on Thursday. The company is asking for permission to raise a further SFr45 million from the market.

The money raised would be used to back an agreed bridge financing deal worth SFr125 million.

Gretag, which last month said product problems and extraordinary warranty payments contributed to a 2000 net loss of SFr46 million, has already received the lion’s share of these additional funds.

Economic news will hit the market on Monday when April unemployment data will be released. In March, the unemployment rate was 1.8 per cent, with 65,625 people registered as unemployed in Switzerland.

Economists have been forecasting unemployment to remain in a range of 1.6 to 1.8 per cent over the remainder of the year.

by Tom O’Brien

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR