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Company results provide food for thought

The medical technology company, Disetronic, is among companies reporting this week

(Keystone Archive)

There is likely to be a lot of movement in share values in the coming week in Switzerland as traders react to half-year figures from a raft of companies.

Among those reporting is the electrical parts firm, Saia Burgess, which recently downgraded its forecast for earnings this year. The company said in March it expected double-digit profit growth this year but now says it expects first half profit to be only in line with last year.

Like so many other firms, Saia Burgess has become more cautious in response to the increasingly noticeable economic downturn that began in the United States and is now spreading to Europe.

The share price came under pressure after the profit downgrade and is likely to fall again once Tuesday's numbers are out.

On Thursday, it's the turn of two medical technology companies to unveil their half-year reports. Jomed says it expects its sales and operating profit to be roughly double that of 2001 despite product delays and a weak first quarter. The share price will come under selling pressure if the second quarter does not produce a turnaround.

Disetronic, based in Burgdorf, expects a healthy sales increase of 20 to 25 per cent for the year as a whole and should see its share price rise further when it publishes its second quarter figures.

Other companies reporting this week include the private bank, Julius Bär, the manufacturer of sanitary plumbing systems, Geberit, and the leading Swiss manufacturer of washing machines, Schultess.

Another indication of how much the economic downturn is beginning to bite will be shown by the release on Wednesday of the latest unemployment figures. In June, the rate stood at just 1.6 per cent - its lowest level in almost a decade.

But analysts say Switzerland cannot be insulated from the slowdown indefinitely. Indeed, several companies have recently announced job cuts in the past month alone.

ABB is slashing 12,000 jobs worldwide, with an unknown number to go in Switzerland. Silicon Graphics announced the closure of its plant in Neuchatel last week with the loss of 300 positions and the Canadian telecommunications group, Nortel Networks, axed more than 200 jobs at its Zurich semiconductor plant.

It may not be long before the unemployment rate starts inching up again.

by Michael Hollingdale

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