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Sulzer Medica threatened by US appeal court

The court decision is a blow to an out-of-court settlement Keystone Archive

There was news of a severe setback for the medical technology group, Sulzer Medica, this week.

An appeal court in the United States overturned a temporary injunction blocking hundreds of liability lawsuits against the company arising from faulty hip and knee implants.

The injunction had been granted to allow continuing discussions of an out-of-court settlement. Sulzer Medica faces damages’ claims from up to 2,000 angry patients who have had to undergo revision surgery.

In August, the company proposed a $780 million (SFr1.27 billion) payment to settle all claims, but the final bill could be much higher if individual lawsuits go ahead.

Sulzer Medica says it will challenge the decision by asking all 12 Ohio appeal judges to hear the case.

Investors were clearly worried by the news and sent the share price tumbling to an all time low in the wake of the decision.

New managers at Crossair

Closer to home, Switzerland’s regional airline, Crossair, which is to take over from Swissair as the country’s flag carrier unveiled its new management structure on Thursday.

The airline is faced with the challenge of incorporating the bulk of Swissair’s fleet by April next year and announced that it would be giving half its top management positions to former Swissair bosses.

In other corporate news this week, Credit Suisse First Boston said it expected to report a third quarter loss of about $400 million. It blamed stock market falls and poor conditions in the investment banking business.

The losses at CSFB contrast sharply with results at rival firms, which are still making money despite seeing steep profit declines.

Serono, Europe’s biggest biotechnology company, slashed its 2001 profit forecast on Tuesday after releasing lower than expected third quarter sales.

The Geneva based company says it now expects earnings to grow between six and eight per cent rather than the 20 per cent forecast earlier.

Profit warning

The industrial group, Georg Fischer, also issued a profit warning. It warned investors that earnings would be 30 per cent down on last years’ figures and said it saw no prospect of an early recovery.

And the country’s largest media company, Publigroupe, added to the bad news when it said it expected to make large losses this year.

There was happier news for Kudelski, which saw its share price take off with the announcement that its biggest client Echostar is to buy General Motors’s satellite television unit.

Analysts say the transaction could boost Kudelski’s US client base by 50 per cent to 34 million.

Winterthur, the insurance arm of the Credit Suisse Group, is to pay SFr840 million cash for the general insurance business of British insurer, Prudential.

The announcement on Friday came as part of the British group’s shake-up of its domestic operations.

Business backs UN membership

Finally, leading members of Switzerland’s business community have repeated their call for the Swiss to back the country’s entry into the United Nations in a nationwide vote next March.

At a news conference in Bern on Thursday, the president of the country’s main business confederation, economiesuisse, said the wind had changed since the 1986 vote when most business leaders came out against joining.

Business leaders said a “no” vote to UN membership would seriously harm the country’s image.

by Michael Hollingdale

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR