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THE WEEK IN REVIEW

The collapse of a huge merger proposal, calls for tax cuts and banking secrecy topped the business news this week.

The collapse of a huge merger proposal, calls for tax cuts and banking secrecy topped the business news this week.

The aluminium industry was rocked by the collapse of the merger between French company, Péchiney, Canadian firm Alcan and Switzerland's Algroup. Pechiney withdrew after it became clear Alcan was unwilling to sell its stake in a German subsidiary to satisfy European Union antitrust concerns.

The finance minister, Kaspar Villiger, said Switzerland's banking secrecy laws were not a topic for conversation. He was reacting to Wednesday's report from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation on improving access to bank information for tax purposes.

Business leaders called for huge tax cuts of SFr 6 billion between now and 2006 to make Switzerland more competitive.

Swisscom said it was considering the flotation of its mobile phone division to finance its bids for the third generation of mobile network licences or UMTS. There are also calls for the government to give up its majority stake in the company.

The telecommunications group, Ascom, posted annual figures that showed net profit up 38 per cent to SFr 90 million.

A Credit Suisse report said the real estate sector has recovered after a decade of stagnation.


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