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Sulzer changes top the week's headlines

Ueli Roost's departure from Sulzer follows a takeover battle

(Keystone Archive)

One of Switzerland's biggest companies stole the headlines this week with news of changes at the top. Ueli Roost, resigned on Monday as both chairman of the technology company, Sulzer, and as boss of its majority-owned medical technology unit, Sulzer Medica.

His resignation comes at a time when Sulzer is trying to ward off a hostile takeover bid from InCentive Capital, owned by the financier, Réné Braginsky.

Roost said he was strongly identified with the failed merger last year between Sulzer and Sulzer Medica, and that InCentive Capital could use him as a weapon in its bid to acquire Sulzer.

Holderbank, the world's second biggest cement producer, reported solid growth this week for the year 2000 with net profit up by more than 11 per cent to SFr886 million ($514 million).

During the course of the week, Zurich airport heightened the war of words with the German government in their dispute about flights over southern Germany.

Josef Felder, the chief executive of Unique Zurich Airport, said Tuesday that he would consider taking legal action against Berlin if negotiations failed to resolve the dispute.

Felder made the threat at a news conference on Tuesday called to present the first annual results of the newly privatised airport.

Net profit was reported down 6.7 per cent to SFr89.8 million. The decline was put down to the fact the company was now responsible for paying taxes after its privatisation. Profit before taxes was up 10 per cent to SFr113.2 million on turnover of SFr522.5 million.

A court in Italy this week imposed fines of more than SFr50 million on three Swiss companies found guilty of participating in a cartel in the car insurance market.

Wintherthur Insurance is being fined SFr33 million, with Zurich Financial Services having to pay SFr15 million and Helvetia Patria SFr3 million. In all, 38 companies were found guilty of being involved in the cartel and face total fines of SFr555 million. An appeal against the judgement is expected.

The world's largest goods inspection group, SGS, reported an increase in net profit of 13 per cent to SFr128 million.

The company said it expected still higher earnings for the current year thanks to the benefits of a restructuring programme and the development of new products.

Swiss chocolate manufacturer, Lindt and Sprüngli, saw its net profit leap 9.3 per cent to more than SFr76 million on sales of more than SFr1.5 billion.

The software and consulting group, Think Tools, slipped into the red, after taking a financial hit due to the failure of its e-bank venture with private investment bank, Vontobel.

Losses were nearly SFr20 million. The company said it expected a return to profit in the second quarter of 2001.

And the crisis deepened at Gretag Imaging as well. After announcing a loss of SFr46 million for last year the firm said it would cut a further 340 jobs worldwide. One hundred people will be affected in Switzerland.

by Michael Hollingdale


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