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More job cuts mar the Swiss business scene

300 people will lose their jobs at Silicon Graphics near Neuchâtel


Following last week's announcement of cuts at power and technology group ABB, there was more bad news on the jobs front this week. The United States computer firm, Silicon Graphics, announced on Monday that it was going to close its offices in canton Neuchâtel.

Three hundred jobs are set to go when the company transfers its manufacturing operations back home. SGI said it planned to maintain a local office to continue distribution in Europe.

SGI vice president for operations, Michel Bernard, said the move was prompted by economic pressures caused by the global IT downturn.
Last week, the parent company announced a net loss in the fourth quarter to June 30 of $232 million.

On Wednesday, the Canadian telecommunications group, Nortel Networks, said that 225 out of 400 posts would be cut at its Zurich semiconductor plant.

The losses come as part of a huge international restructuring programme announced by the firm in June. Following a massive profits warning and a dismal performance on the markets, the Canadian firm announced that it was reducing its global workforce by 30,000 people.

The Swiss Reinsurance Company of Zurich unveiled plans for a major acquisition this week. It is set to buy the reinsurance operation of the Lincoln National Corporation in the United States for $2 billion (SFr3.42 billion).

If approved by the competition authorities, Swiss Re will have more than a quarter of the life and health insurance market in the US.

The Internet virus, Code Red, failed to wreak as much havoc as some experts feared but even so at least ten Swiss domains were infected. The companies all had addresses ending in dot ch. The virus also tried to break into government sites but was repulsed thanks to a new anti-virus programme.

David Marron, who sold the brokerage house Paine Webber to Swiss bank UBS last year, is to step down as chairman of UBS Paine Webber.

He is to be replaced by the president and chief executive, Joe Grano.

Marron, who headed the company for 20 years, negotiated a price of $10.8 billion for the brokerage, a figure that valued his stake in the company at $215 million.

It is thought that Marron wants to devote more time to his political career.

The Swiss consumer price index fell by 0.2 per cent in July to leave the annual inflation rate at 1.4 per cent. The decrease was put down to lower petrol prices.

Victorinox and Swiss Army Brands released plans to form a new watch concern this week. The new company, Victorinox Swiss Army Watch, will launch the new product line in Italy in October.

by Michael Hollingdale

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