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Business outlook

The corporate world is winding down as Christmas approaches and most companies will wait until the New Year before announcing any major news.

One exception is the manufacturer of semiconductor assembly systems, Esec, which is due to publish third quarter figures on Thursday. Analysts expect an increase in net profit of around 25 per cent.

Esec has managed to turn itself around after a tough couple of years and is now partially integrated into Unaxis. With the economic upturn, the semiconductor industry is continuing to thrive and is expected to reach its peak in the year 2002 to 2003.

Analysts say the stock remains a good medium to long-term buy.

The markets are likely to have Swisscom and other telecom stocks in their sights after last week's auction in Switzerland of third generation mobile phone licences.

The four licences went for little more than the minimum price of SFr200 million, which is good news for telecommunications companies, if not for the government which had originally hoped to raise several billion francs.

The sector has taken a real battering this year amid fears that companies will find it difficult to recoup their investments. Analysts say the British and German licences went for hugely inflated prices.

The companies that bought the Swiss licences, though, should see their stock rise, given the paltry sums they wound up paying.

Industrial production figures are to be released on Tuesday and they should confirm a slowdown in economic growth. That will please the Swiss National Bank which decided on Friday to leave interest rates unchanged as it saw no inflationary dangers.

by Michael Hollingdale

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