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Machine firms see a turnaround

Machine exports suffered under the high Swiss franc Keystone

The Swiss machine industry has found a way out of its crisis, with 2013 bringing 2.3% more orders for machines, electronic equipment and metals from Switzerland. But the EU continues to be a difficult market, with small firms continuing to struggle the most.

This content was published on February 25, 2014 - 15:30
swissinfo.ch and agencies

In the past four years, the Swiss metals, electronics and machine (MEM) industry has lost 4,300 jobs and struggled with exports because of the high value of the Swiss franc.

However, according to Peter Dietrich, the director of the industry’s umbrella group Swissmem, the fallout was expected to be worse, with 10,000 predicted job losses at the height of the franc’s value against the euro.

Export numbers in particular started looking up in the second half of 2013, with better economic situations in Swissmem’s main export areas and a weaker franc. In the fourth quarter of last year, exports to the EU increased by 3.5%, with those to Asia and the US rising by 3.2% and 2.9% respectively. Overall, though, exports to the EU in all of 2013 rose by only 0.8%.

“The risks in the European area are not off the table,” Dietrich warned.

Continuing trend

Sales in the machine industry also increased in 2013, having been stagnant since 2009. They rose by 2.8% overall, with a 5.3% increase in the fourth quarter alone.

However, according to Swissmem, largest firms profited the most from the sales increase, with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) seeing mostly stagnant numbers. To combat this trend, Dietrich encourages more support for innovation among SMEs.

Overall, the Swiss MEM industry employs 332,283 people, 1% fewer than in 2012. Those numbers include those employed by the flourishing watch industry.

Swissmem expects the upward export trend to continue in 2014, with 54% of businesses expecting to order more material from abroad. Three years ago, that number was 40.5%.

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