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The business week in Switzerland

The main news of the week was Nestlé's SFr16 billion ($10 billion) bid for the United States pet food company, Ralston Purina.

If the deal satisfies US regulators, Nestlé will gain a 40 per cent share of US sales. That would make it market leader in the US, although worldwide it Mars still holds the top spot.

The pet-care business is an increasingly important part of the food sector, with annual sales increasing by around 6.5 per cent. The growth rate is twice that for human food.

Nestlé hopes to complete the transaction by the end of the year.

Switzerland’s private bankers mounted a strong defence of the country’s role as a financial centre this week.

The Private Bankers’ Association said it would be a catastrophe if any hasty concessions were made to the European Union in its fight against tax evasion.

The Post Office announced plans for a major reorganisation to take place over the next five years. The plan, unveiled in Bern on Thursday, will see the closure of up to 900 post offices and the loss of hundreds of jobs.

The Post Office hopes to make savings of around SFr100 million a year.

Switzerland is to enjoy another strong year of economic growth according to a survey released by UBS.

The survey of around 3,600 companies showed that most expected the healthy economic environment to continue in 2001 though the exceptional rate seen last year will not be repeated.

Booming sectors include information technology, telecommunications, electronics and the food industry.

Two international companies announced plans to move to Switzerland. The tobacco giant, Phillip Morris is to relocate its international activities from New York to Lausanne, where its operations for Europe, Africa and the Middle East are headquartered.

The British data transmission group, ECOM, has chosen the town of Biel to house its new technology communication centre.

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