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Decisive week for SAirGroup and Sabena

The markets are expecting another busy week for corporate results, while the SAirGroup and the Belgian government should reach a decision on the future of the troubled airline, Sabena.

Last-minute brinkmanship will continue this week as the SAirGroup and the Belgian government meet to consider a capital injection programme aimed at saving the airline whose losses are mounting.

Under the plan, the SAirGroup and the Belgian government are to invest SFr386 million ($239 million) into the carrier. But the investment is conditional on cost-cutting measures from the unions aimed at saving SFr80 million.

The airline's 1,100 pilots voted to accept the cuts at an extraordinary general meeting last weekend. Sabena's owners say the plan is essential if Sabena is to stay airborne.

The food giant, Nestlé, publishes its annual results this week.

Analysts anticipate a very strong performance when Friday's figures are released, with net profit expected to grow by 24 per cent year on year. That figure will be fuelled by major cost reductions and restructuring at the group.

Turnover is expected to be up by about 3.5 per cent on strong sales of coffee and ice-cream.

There is also some speculation that the world's number one food company may follow in the footsteps of Novartis and UBS and announce a share split to make its stock lighter.

The engineering group, Georg Fischer, comes through with its numbers on Tuesday.

Sales are expected to be up by around 17 per cent after last year's strong first half performance. Operating profit should be up by more than 40 per cent while net profit will be somewhat lower because of higher taxes.

The company's stock has been languishing at 1997 levels, and there could be some interest on the back of decent figures.

Ciba Specialty chemicals is the other big name reporting annual figures this week. Net profits should increase around 25 per cent on a sales rise of around nine per cent.

The additives and water treatment divisions have enjoyed a good year while the group is continuing to implement a cost reduction programme.

The stock used to be a markets' favourite but has fallen back from the 200 level to around 110. The share price should pick up a little on the back of good results.

by Michael Hollingdale


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