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Kuoni posts sizeable jump in profit

Andreas Schmid has stepped down as Kuoni chairman

(Keystone)

Switzerland's largest travel group, Kuoni, has reported a rise in net profit for the first half of the year to SFr8.1million ($6.62 million).

The group's positive half-year results follow news of the resignation on Monday of Andreas Schmid from his position as group chairman.

Kuoni managed to turn around a net loss of SFr7.2 million in the first half of last year to present a profit of SFr8.1million in the first six months of 2006.

The group generated a total turnover of SFr1.75 billion, an 11 per cent improvement on the same period of last year, with strong performances reported in all business units.

Gross profit stood at SFr371 million, up 9.4 per cent, while gross profit margin declined slightly, from 21.5 per cent to 21.2 per cent.

Like most of the travel industry, the Swiss travel group was hit in early 2005 by a large drop in the number of bookings to Asia following the December 2004 tsunami.

"For 2006 as a whole, the Kuoni Group expects to report a percentage increase in turnover which is comparable to that achieved for the first six months of the year," the group said in a statement.

Resignations

Late on Monday Kuoni announced that its chairman, Andreas Schmid, had resigned with immediate effect, and named board member Henning Boysen as his replacement.

Schmid also announced he was stepping aside as president-elect of the Swiss Business Federation, economiesuisse.

His resignation came after he led a failed attempt this year to forge ties with British travel agency First Choice.

In a statement, Schmid said his departure had been caused by disagreements within Kuoni's executive board and management. It is widely thought that he did not consult the board before holding talks with First Choice.

The Board of Directors noted its chairman's decision with deep regret, and voiced its sincere thanks to him for his services to the company.

Kuoni's chief executive, Armin Meier, and new chairman, Henning Boysen, gave a show of unity on Tuesday. Meier said he was relieved that the power struggle was now over and the planned merger with First Choice was no longer on the table.

"The management team can now get back to implementing Kuoni's business strategy," said Meier, adding that any future mergers would be with small and medium-sized companies.

Schmid had been due to take over as president of the Swiss Business Federation, economiesuisse, on September 1.

The news represents a further blow to the business lobby group, which has recently been hit by a series of internal rifts and the withdrawal of a key member, the aluminium industry.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The Kuoni Group was founded 100 years ago in Zurich, when Alfred Kuoni opened his first travel agency.
Kuoni is Switzerland's main travel group and one of the largest in Europe.
Today, Kuoni has over 100 branch offices in 25 countries around the world.
The travel group has some 6,400 employees, 1,600 of whom work in Switzerland.
Alfred Kuoni's first tour was a trip to the top of Mount Üetliberg outside Zurich, for which he charged SFr1 per person.

end of infobox

economiesuisse

economiesuisse is the Swiss Business Federation – the largest umbrella organisation representing the Swiss economy.

It has the support of more than 30,000 businesses of all sizes, which employ a total of 1.5 million people in Switzerland.

Its mission is to create an optimal economic environment for Swiss business.

end of infobox

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