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SAirGroup will once again be under scrutiny this week

(Keystone Archive)

Much attention will focus on the future of SAirGroup, following a turbulent week which saw the entire board announcing its resignation on Friday. There will be considerable speculation about who will take over.

The board announced its resignation just two days after the early and surprise departure of Moritz Suter as head of SAirGroup's airline division.

With half the board members due to step down at the annual general meeting on April 25, and the announcement of three new members at the same time, there is bound to be speculation both about the future direction of the company and the composition of its management.

SAirGroup is expected to reconsider more of its alliances, as the process of developing a new strategy unfolds.

The outlook for its business in France is one of the more immediate issues likely to be addressed. It currently owns 49 per cent stakes in three airlines, Air Littoral, AOM and Air Liberté, which all made big losses in 2000 and needed a capital injection in December.

Marc Rochet, chief executive of the French airlines since February, is due to present a survival plan on Thursday amid reports he may suggest selling some or all of the airlines.

On Tuesday full year results are expected from Switzerland's second largest financial group, Credit Suisse.

The company, which also controls the insurance group, Winterthur, has come in for some positive attention recently. Investment bank Goldman Sachs said that despite an expected slowdown in business over the coming year, CS Group should outperform its closest rival UBS.

It said in a recent research note that Credit Suisse has more momentum in its core divisions of investment banking, secondary trading and asset management.

Also reporting on Tuesday will be the hotel and catering group, Mövenpick, which expects annual profits for 2000 to improve sharply despite start-up problems with its ice-cream business in Japan.

Traders will be keen to see if the group gives any further indication about buying the hotel interests of the SAirGroup.

On Thursday, Basel-based Novartis will give more details about its latest set of results. Net profits in 2000 rose 8 per cent at SFr7.21 ($4.28 billion). Dealers will also be looking for more details on the compay's planned $2.4 billion share buyback.

Analysts and journalists at the Novartis meeting will also be looking at what drugs the company has in the pipeline.

On a lighter note, the McDonald's chain will open its first ever Golden Arch Hotel at the end of the week. Guests in Zurich will be able to see how the international fast food giant has managed its move into the hotel business. The hotel opens to the general public next Sunday.

by Michael Hollingdale


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