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(Bloomberg) -- Nestle SA Chief Executive Officer Paul Bulcke said Switzerland is losing business appeal because of the country’s referendum to restrict immigration and the strength of its currency.
“If we would have to expand something here, I would think twice,” the Belgian CEO said during a press conference on full- year results at the food company’s Vevey headquarters.
Swiss voters last year approved a plan to restrict immigration, while more recently the Swiss National Bank unleashed a surge in the country’s currency by abruptly abandoning an exchange-rate cap. Bulcke said Nestle might not have picked the Swiss town of Romont as the site for a new Nespresso factory if it was making the decision now.
“The Swiss franc is part of it,” the CEO said in an interview. “But there are other dimensions in my eyes that are even more important: immigration. I have people here that run a multinational. I need people who understand these countries.”
Nestle began almost 150 years ago making infant formula on the shores of Lake Geneva. The CEO’s comments highlight the challenge Switzerland has in continuing to attract business investment. The Swiss economy has outperformed the neighboring euro area every quarter since 2012.
“Switzerland needs to think about that,” the CEO said. Nestle doesn’t intend to move businesses out of the country and isn’t planning job cuts, he said. However, he’s not sure if Nestle will replace all employees in the nation when they leave.
More than half of the company’s research costs are in Switzerland, Bulcke said. The KitKat maker has opened research centers elsewhere in the world in past years to avoid concentrating too much in one country, he said.
Nestle has 10 plants in Switzerland, which export about two-thirds of their production. The company gets less than 2 percent of total revenue from its home country, and has about 10,000 employees in Switzerland, out of a total of 339,000.
“We’re going to work on that to see how we can soften the impact of the Swiss franc’s revaluation,” Bulcke said.
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