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The business week ahead

Attention will be focused this week on Swiss lift maker, Schindler, as it unveils its 1999 results, amid reports of a potential merger with the Otis elevator company.

Attention will be focused this week on Swiss lift maker, Schindler, as it unveils its 1999 results, amid reports of a potential merger with the Otis elevator company.

Analysts are upbeat about Schindler's prospects, with CFSB saying in its latest report that the Swiss lift maker is in a position to capture additional market share, thanks to its "innovative product pipeline and customer oriented product strategy".

One company which will be watching Schindler's results closely is the American elevator firm, Otis. Its chief executive, Steve Page, told the Swiss business paper Finanz and Wirtschaft, that he would be very interested in merging with Schindler. He added that Otis would be willing to have chairman, Alfred Schindler, head the merged company.

Tuesday sees results from Oerlikon Buehrle. Profits are expected to hover around the previous year's level. In 1998, operating profit before extraordinary factors stood at SFr133 million.

Oerlikon Buehrle is undergoing a far-reaching restructuring in a bid to transform itself from a diverse and struggling conglomerate into a streamlined high-technology group.

It has already sold fashion division, Bally, as well the Contraves Defense division and its real estate unit. It now plans to divest itself of its Pilatus light airplane division.

Another company to watch will be speciality construction equipment maker Hilti, whose results are due out on Friday. Although the firm is based in Liechtenstein, its shares are listed on the Swiss Stock Exchange and most of its operations are spread throughout Switzerland.

Hilti's performance is likely to be seen as a bellwether of the construction sector's performance. Sales last year rose seven per cent, reaching SFr2.8 billion, and the company expects profits to have risen by a larger percentage.

Finally, the latest unemployment figures are due out on Friday. The government will be hoping that the jobless rate has continued to fall from 2.4 per cent reported in February.

by Tom O'Brien

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