Tough test for new boss at Sulzer Medica

Rietiker has a tough task ahead of him

In an otherwise quiet corporate week, Sulzer Medica will welcome a new chief executive officer. Stephan Rietiker takes up his position on Wednesday and faces a tough challenge to restore the medical technology company's fortunes.

This content was published on July 29, 2001 - 12:06

Sulzer Medica was once the jewel in Sulzer Industries crown but is now facing legal action in the United States over faulty hip and knee implants. Despite the crisis which has seen Sulzer Medica's share price plummet, Sulzer spun the company off earlier this month.

It is not an ideal atmosphere in which to take up the reins and Rietiker will spend the first few weeks in the US trying to sort out the mess he has inherited.

More than 2,000 people have had to suffer revision surgery on account of the faulty hips since the beginning of the year when Sulzer Medica issued its recall and the company faces 1,000 lawsuits at the last count.

On top of that, around 140 patients have undergone revision surgery because of the faulty tibias and that figure is expected to rise substantially. Sulzer Medica is still investigating what went wrong with the production process at its orthopaedics unit in Austin, Texas.

The company has warned the markets that its insurance coverage is limited to SFr400 million ($232.96 million) and analysts have estimated the costs could be as high as SFr1 billion.

Swiss National Day is being celebrated on Wednesday but for the first time trading in Swiss shares will not come to a standstill.

Swiss blue chips migrated to London last month with the launch of virt-x, the first pan-European trading platform. Virt-x offers customers the chance to trade in European shares by industry sector rather than having to go through each national exchange.

Formed by the merger of the Swiss Exchange's blue chip index and the British electronic platform, Tradepoint, virt-x is a response to increasing consolidation in the industry.

The Paris, Milan and Amsterdam bourses have already merged and virt-x hopes to challenge the dominance of London and Frankfurt in European trading.

by Michael Hollingdale

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