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The business week in Switzerland

Philippe Bruggisser's departure heralds a change of direction for SAirGroup Keystone Archive

The week was dominated by news that SAirGroup, which owns Swissair, is to call a halt to further acquisitions in the airline sector, following the departure of its chief executive, Philippe Bruggisser, on Tuesday.

This content was published on January 26, 2001 - 12:09

The company had been trying to improve its market position in recent years with a series of alliances with other airlines, and by acquiring stakes in carriers such as Belgium's Sabena and Tap-Air Portugal.

But, on Tuesday, SAirGroup announced that the buying spree was over and that the company would now concentrate on improving its existing services.

Swiss commentators took a dim view of the situation. Under headlines like: "Swissair - a pilot please", "Failure of a strategy", "Dream or Nightmare" and "In a dead-end street", they said SAirGroup urgently needed a credible strategy for the future.

Alarmed by SAirGroup's announcement that it would be halting its policy of expansion, the Portuguese government warned that it would seek damages if the Swiss airline company tried to pull out of its planned alliance with Tap-Air Portugal.

The Portuguese public works minister, Jorge Coelho, who is responsible for transport policy, is to hold talks with SAirGroup chairman, Eric Honegger, next week.

Other airlines with a shared interest in Swissair's fortunes include Africa's largest airline, South African Airways, in which the Swiss group has a 20 per cent stake.

SAirGroup has said it does not intend to exercise its option to buy more shares in SAA and that it is as yet undecided about what will happen to its current holding in the carrier.

In other news, Monday saw Swiss watchmaker, Swatch, sign a deal with the Lausanne-based International Olympic Committee to become the official timekeeper of the Olympic Games until 2010.

The telecommunications industry was in the limelight on Thursday as the Swiss government said it was considering reducing its stake in the country's largest telecommunications operator, Swisscom.

It opened a period of public consultation on the proposal, which requires an amendment to the constitution.

The government also included a proposal to let the Post Office expand its financial services by opening its own bank.

by Tom O'Brien

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