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The business week ahead in Switzerland

A major e-commerce conference in Zurich and the stock market debut of a former Roche subsidiary are the main items dominating the business agenda in Switzerland this week.

A joint Swiss-American e-commerce conference gets underway at Zurich's World Trade Centre today.

Organised by the US embassy and the Swiss economics ministry, the two-day meeting is being co-chaired by the Swiss economics minister, Pascal Couchepin, and the American ambassador to Berne, Richard Fredericks.

Keynote speakers from both sides of the Atlantic will address issues from getting started in e-commerce to future financial trends and privacy concerns.

It's the first major event to be held under the umbrella of the US-Swiss joint commission, which aims to foster understanding and cooperation between the two countries.

The commission was launched by Pascal Couchepin and the US trade secretary, William Daly, at the World Economic Forum in Davos last January.

In other business news this week, Givaudan makes its stock market debut on Thursday.

The company is the former flavours and fragrances division of the pharmaceuticals giant, Roche. Roche spun it off to better concentrate on its drugs, diagnostics and vitamins businesses.

Givaudan had a net profit in 1999 of SFr182 million and employs around 5,000 people. Analysts expect it to be worth between SFr5 billion and SFr6 billion when its launch on the Zurich bourse.

Finally, the tobacco and luxury goods group, Richemont, is due to release its results on Thursday. Analysts expect a 30 per cent increase in sales driven by watches and jewellery.

Richemont-owned luxury brands include Cartier, Alfred Dunhill and Hacket.

By Michael Hollingdale

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