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The week in business

Switzerland's UMTS licences raised just SFr205 million at auction this week

(Keystone)

There was a major disappointment for the Swiss government this week following the long-awaited auction of third-generation mobile phone licences.

The four licences went for only SFr205 million ($120 million), just SFr5 million above the minimum price set by the government. The sale was originally meant to take place in November but was postponed after many of the bidders dropped out.

In the end just four companies were left competing for the same number of licences.

Before the November postponement, the government had hoped the sale would make around SFr2.5 billion.

Switzerland and the US held talks on economic crime this week. The talks focused on tax evasion, bribery and money laundering. The Swiss foreign ministry said the talks had been businesslike.

On the domestic business front, Swisscom announced this week that it would maintain its broadcasting division after parliament voiced concern about the network of transmitters falling into foreign hands.

Swisscom was hoping to divest itself of the business to focus on its core telecommunications business.

On Tuesday, the chemicals group, EMS-Chemie, launched a takeover bid for cellulose-maker, Avantis. It bettered an earlier offer by Model Gruppe, which has now withdrawn its bid.

In pharmaceutical news, Europe's biggest biotechnology group, Serono, announced the launch of two new products, which it claimed represented a major advance in infertility treatment.

And the pharmaceuticals groups, Roche and Aventis, said they are to cooperate on an agreement to promote global cancer research.

by Michael Hollingdale

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