The Swiss aviation industry entered a new era this week as the board of Crossair handed the reins to a new leadership.
Thursday saw Moritz Suter, founder and chairman of Crossair, and the airline's board of directors step down to make way for a new management team led by the former head of the Dutch airline, KLM.
At the end of an emotional, six-hour extraordinary meeting attended by 2,500 Crossair shareholders at the St Jakobshalle in Basel, Pieter Bouw said he and his newly elected 11-member board would do everything possible to ensure the future development of the airline.
Under a plan hammered out in October between banks, government and industry leaders, Crossair is to take over 52 aircraft from the collapsed national carrier, Swissair, and transform itself from a short-haul regional European carrier into Switzerland's new international airline.
Crossair's resigning chairman had harsh words for Swissair, saying it had in the past misused its monopoly position as the national airline.
Unemployment was in the headlines on Friday as it increased to 2.1 per cent in November from 1.9 per cent in October. It was the first time it had risen above two per cent in 19 months, and the highest level seen since April 2000.
Economists said the rise was a clear indication that the Swiss economy is slowing along with the rest of Europe.
The Swiss National Bank (SNB) responded by cutting interest rates for the fourth time this year.
With worries over the slowing economy mounting, the SNB cut its target range for interest rates by half a per cent on Friday to 1.25 to 2.25 per cent.
The central bank said the economic outlook has deteriorated since September and cut its economic growth forecast to 1.5 per cent for 2001, and around one per cent in 2002.
Swisscom was in trouble on Thursday as the Competition Commission announced that it was investigating whether the former state telecommunications monopoly had violated competition rules by including publicity material in its monthly bills to customers.
The investigation follows a complaint from rival telecom operator, Tele2, which first raised its objections to the practice last August.
On Wednesday, the Swiss pharmaceutical giant, Roche, was again fined by the European Commission for its role in a price fixing cartel.
The Commission levied a €64 million (SFr98 million) fine against the Basel-based group for participating in a "price-fixing and market-sharing cartel in citric acid".
This latest announcement comes just a fortnight after the Commission slapped a €462 million fine on Roche for its involvement in a vitamin price fixing cartel.
Berna Biotech had some good news on Tuesday: it expects sales in its core vaccines business to rise by 40 per cent next year in the wake of biological terror attacks in the United States.
Berna Biotech was radically restructured two years ago to focus on its vaccines business.
It received a boost in recent months from the fear of biological terrorism since the anthrax attacks in the US.
by Tom O'Brien
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