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Markets fear Swatch sales slump

Swatch chairman Nicolas Hayek: are sales going up in smoke?

(Keystone Archive)

Some of the countries' best known companies release more results in the week ahead. Among those reporting are Swatch, Nestlé, Swisscom and Sulzer Industries.

Shares in the Swatch Group fell sharply last week after the markets got nervous when the company decided to announce its first half results earlier than expected on Monday. The company had previously indicated a release towards the end of August.

The markets interpreted the timing of the release as a sign that the watchmaker may issue a sales warning. Swatch says it's simply a result of improved internal reporting procedures.

Most analysts think Swatch forecasts of a 10 to 12 per cent rise in 2001 sales is too optimistic given the economic slowdown in the United States and Europe.

The food giant, Nestlé, reports its first half results on Wednesday. The company has been forecasting record results for the year as a whole after first quarter turnover rose 4.5 per cent to SFr19.4 billion ($11.66 billion).

The company received another boost last month when the European Commission gave its conditional approval to the acquisition of the US pet food company Ralston Purina.

The deal is the biggest ever made by Nestlé and still awaits the approval of the Federal Trade Commission.

Swisscom is releasing results on Thursday. Analysts expect the telecoms operator to publish higher sales, better operating earnings and a jump in net profit.

The bulk of Swisscom's sales growth is coming through its German-based mobile operator, Debitel.

The company, still 65 per cent state owned, has been undergoing a major restructuring programme since the liberalisation of the telecoms market two years ago.

Sulzer Industries releases its results on Thursday too. It's another company undergoing major changes as it tries to refocus on its most profitable businesses.

It's already spun off its medical technology division, Sulzer Medica, and has just sold its textiles unit and its turbo division. It wants to concentrate on pumps, surface coatings and engineering services.

Other companies reporting this week include Ciba specialty chemicals, Esec and Von Roll.

By Michael Hollingdale


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