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The business week in Switzerland

Mobile phone operators geared up this week for Monday's UMTS auction

(Keystone)

The major news on the corporate front concerned the auction of third generation mobile telecommunication licenses (UMTS), which is due to start on Monday.

The week ended with fears that the auction for the third generation of mobile licences in Switzerland could turn into a farce, after four of the bidders pulled out of the race late in the week.

Their withdrawal leaves only five of the original 10 bidders still in the race. With four UMTS licences to fight over, it seemed the expected revenue bonanza might not materialise.

Earlier in the week, the British telecommunications company, Vodafone, said it was to acquire a 25 per cent stake in the mobile phone division of Switzerland's largest telecommunications operator, Swisscom. The Swiss government approved the SFr4.5 billion ($25.7 billion) transaction on Wednesday.

And in yet another development in the telecommunication sector, France Telecom acquired a majority stake in Orange Switzerland. It is buying E.On's 42.5 per cent share in the company for an estimated minimum of SFr2.4 billion.

Swisscom and Orange are among the companies who will be bidding for a UMTS licence in Switzerland.

On the economics front, it was announced on Tuesday that unemployment in Switzerland remained unchanged in October at 1.7 per cent of the working population, its lowest level for nearly nine years.

Figures from the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs in Bern showed that 62,953 people were jobless, 624 more than at the end of September.

The week also produced more moves towards the Internet from Swiss business. The Swiss Life insurance company in Zurich said on Tuesday that it was to launch the first integrated financial portal in Switzerland from next January.

Under the name redsafe.com, the first exclusive online bank will provide a comprehensive range of financial services.

by Tom O'Brien


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