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The business week in review

Novartis and Astra-Zeneca get the go-ahead from the European Commission (file picture) Keystone

The main news affecting the Swiss business scene came out of Brussels this week. The European Commission gave the go-ahead on Wednesday for the merger of the Novartis agribusiness division with that of the British-Swedish group, AstraZenica.

But it made the deal conditional on the two companies making a range of divestments.

The Commission expressed concern that the merged company would be in a position to monopolise markets for crop protection products. AstraZeneca and Novartis said the necessary divestments represented less than five per cent of the sales of the new division, Syngenta, and that the EU demands were broadly as expected.

Syngeta should be up and running by the end of the year and will be the world’s largest crop protection company.

The Geneva-based biotechnology company, Serono, began trading on the New York stock exchange on Thursday. It said proceeds from its global offering would total around SFr1.5 billion.

The SFr3 billion offering prices bearer shares at SFr1,550 and American Depositary Shares at $23.49.

Ciba Specialty chemicals is also joining Serono in New York. The Basel-based company will enter Wall Street next Wednesday.

The takeover battle for Intersport took another turn this week when Stancroft Trust announced it now owned 48 per cent of the company’s shares.

The statement came a day after the London-based company said it was to launch an offer to buy all publicly registered shares in Intersport at a price of SFr109 per share. The offer is to begin on August 11.

The announcement came in response to a bid started in June by Intersport Germany. It offered SFr105 per share for its sister organisation.

There was more good news for the Swiss economy as the Créa economic research institute published a survey saying that economic growth should remain robust.

Most areas of the country are benefiting from the economic recovery. One exception is the canton of Fribourg whose economy is expected to retreat in the third quarter.

by Michael Hollingdale

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR