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National exhibition suffers another financial blow

Tough times ahead for Expo's leaders, Nelly Wenger and Martin Heller

(Keystone Archive)

Switzerland's troubled national exhibition, Expo 02, has suffered another financial setback, after the SAirGroup announced on Thursday it was pulling out of a sponsorship deal. The exhibition organisers described the move as "scandalous".

SAirGroup is pulling out of a SFr6 million ($3.5 million) commitment to one of the projects in Yverdon.

A spokesman for the national exhibition described the move as "an insult to Expo 02, the government and the Swiss people".

The spokesman said it was "absolutely scandalous" to be treated in such a manner, as the SAirGroup had confirmed its continuing interest just three weeks ago.

SAirGroup has been withdrawing from some of its commitments, particularly in the airline business, following the departure last month of its chief executive, Philippe Bruggisser.

The company announced that the decision to pull out of Expo 02 had been taken with "great regret", but it said that SAirGroup would still make a contribution of SFr1 million as a gesture of good will to the project.

SAirGroup's decision is the second blow in as many days for Expo 02.

The mobile telecommunications company, Orange, announced on Wednesday it was pulling out of a sponsorship deal - a move described by the national exhibition organisers as "unacceptable".

Orange's withdrawal follows that of another telecommunications company DiAx/Sunrise. Expo is now left with fewer than 40 exhibitors.

The national exhibition has suffered a series of setbacks over the past two years, which delayed its opening by a year.

Franz Steinegger, the head of Expo's management committee, told a meeting of governing parties last week that SFr200 million was needed before the end of June to finance the project.

Despite the latest setback, he remained adamant that the exhibition would open on schedule in May 2002, and would not overrun its budget of SFr1.4 billion.

swissinfo with agencies


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