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The business week in Switzerland

The SAirGroup reverted back to the Swissair brand swissinfo.ch

Once again, it was the aviation conglomerate, SAirGroup, now re-named "Swissair Group", that was making the headlines this week.

This content was published on April 27, 2001 - 17:07

The group's chairman, Mario Corti, revealed a series of measures at Wednesday's AGM aimed at restoring confidence in the group, which posted record losses of SFr2.9 billion ($1.7 billion) last year.

He unveiled a bank loan of SFr1 billion and said the group would be withdrawing from its loss-making French carriers. He also confirmed that the SAirGroup name would be dumped and that the company would once again be called Swissair.

The measures received a warm welcome from the markets allowing the company's shares to recover some loss ground towards the end of the week. But analysts said there was still a long road to recovery.

The group's shares this week were also helped by news that it had sold its Swissôtel hotel chain to Singapore's Raffles Holdings in a deal worth SFr520 million.

In other business news, the British banker, Luqman Arnold, made history this week when he became the first foreigner to take over the day-to-day running of Switzerland's largest financial institution, UBS.

Arnold, aged 51, is UBS chief financial officer and has been with the bank for the past four years. Born in India, he was educated in England and graduated from London University in 1972 with an honours degree in economics.

On Thursday, the world's biggest watchmaker, the Swatch Group, announced that it is teaming up with AOL Time Warner to jointly promote their products and services. Swatch will benefit by gaining a presence on the US media giant's online, print and television platforms.

Sulzer Industries saw the threat of a hostile takeover recede, after InCentive Capital announced it was withdrawing its bid for the industrial conglomerate. The move was widely expected after InCentive failed to persuade shareholders last week to elect its own board and abolish voting restrictions.

Swiss economic growth is set to slow this year, according to economic researchers at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. In its spring forecast, the Institute for Business Cycle Research said the economy would grow by 2.1 per cent this year and by 1.6 per cent in 2002.

The forecast said prospects for the world economy had noticeably deteriorated since last autumn.

And Switzerland has slipped three places in the latest competitiveness league table. The World Competitiveness Yearbook, released on Wednesday by Lausanne's Institute for Management Development showed Switzerland in 10th place.

The United States and Singapore remain first and second with Finland third.

Finally, Basel received a boost this week with the news that life sciences giant, Novartis, is planning to further develop its research facilities at its headquarters in the northern Swiss city, creating around 300 jobs.

A Novartis spokesman said on Thursday the project was already in an advanced stage and that a firm decision would be taken within the next few months.

The plan is to build a new research unit called the "Drug Discovery Centre" where researchers will conduct studies into new medicines based on genetic research.

Novartis currently employs around 1200 research staff in Basel and a further 1500 around the world.

by Michael Hollingdale

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