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The business week in review

Press reports said Swiss business was lining up to support Republican hopeful George W. Bush

(Keystone)

Traders on the Swiss stock exchange had a busy week, with major developments affecting the two major Swiss banks and a number of companies.

The week began with the French-language newspaper "Le Temps" revealing how Swiss companies were some of the leading foreign contributors to the coffers of the United States presidential campaigns.

Swiss firms have contributed $1.2 million (SFr2.1 million) to the Republican Party, the newspaper reported.

Switzerland's largest watchmaking group, Swatch, announced on Monday that is was continuing its expansion plans with the purchase of German mechanical watch manufacturer, Glashütter Uhrenbetrieb. The acquisition will add another name to Swatch's luxury segment, which includes Breguet and Blancpain.

The two big Swiss financial groups, UBS and Credit Suisse, hit the headlines on Wednesday when their share prices took a tumble.

CS shares ended the day nearly nine per cent down at SFr298, while UBS shares closed down 6.46 per cent at SFr213.5. An analyst told swissinfo there was no justification for the declines and recommended that investors buy.

UBS said on Wednesday that its chairman, Alex Krauer, who took over in 1998 at a time of crisis, was stepping down next April. The board of directors is proposing that the chief executive, Marcel Ospel (50), succeed him.

If shareholders agree, UBS will also get its first non-Swiss as chief executive to replace Ospel. He is 50-year-old Luqman Arnold of Britain, who is currently chief financial officer.

Shareholders of Basel-based health care group, Novartis, on Wednesday approved plans to spin off its agribusiness and to merge it with that of British group, AstraZeneca, to create the world's largest crop protection company, Syngenta.

A study this week revealed that Swiss workers might be among the most costly in the world, but that they are worth every centime. The UBS survey said Swiss competitiveness had improved in recent years and that Swiss workers were the second most productive in the world behind those of Norway.

Switzerland's largest telecommunications operator, Swisscom, attracted market attention on Thursday when its chief executive, Jens Alder, told the weekly "Facts" magazine that the company was likely to seek a partner for its domestic mobile phone division.

In the interview, Alder said the partnership would allow Swisscom to offer more competitive third generation mobile phone services.

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