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The business week in Switzerland

Swissair's Jeffrey Katz announced on Wednesday that he will leave the company (archive photo) Keystone

A high-level resignation, new banking guidelines and further indications of Switzerland's ongoing economic boom marked the past week in Swiss business.

This content was published on July 8, 2000 - 12:02

The airline industry was rocked by the surprise resignation of Swissair's president and chief executive officer, Jeffrey Katz. Katz is leaving the airline after just three and a half years to take up a position with an e-business company in the United States. He said it had been a privilege to lead the company but he felt it was time for a change.

Swissair's parent company, SAir, praised Katz for improving the company's branding and services. SAir's chief executive, Philippe Bruggisser, is to take over the day-to-day responsibility for Swissair until a successor is found.

The government on Wednesday presented draft laws regulating how financial institutions handle dormant accounts. Under the proposals, financial institutions will have to actively seek the holder of an account, if there has been no activity in the account for eight years. If the search proved unsuccessful, the institution would be required inform a central body, which the finance ministry plans to set up within two years.

If the account remained dormant for 50 years, and all attempts to trace the holder had failed, the money would become the property of the federal authorities and the account owner would lose all claims to the assets. The government has now asked for feedback from all parties concerned by the end of September. The new legislation will then be presented to parliament for approval.

Switzerland's economic recovery has pushed inflation up to a four year high. Last month's consumer price index rose by 1.9 per cent, the highest rate since the end of 1995. The increase was due mainly to hikes fuel prices. A report from UBS said the economy was now expanding at the fastest rate in 10 years. The bank said it expected economic growth of 3.9 per cent this year. Analysts were surprised by the strength of domestic demand, particularly in retail trade and the construction industry.

More evidence of the economy's explosive growth came with the latest unemployment figures, showing that the number of joblessness had fallen to 1.8 per cent. It stood at 1.9 per cent in May.

Finally, the Federal Banking Commission has given the go ahead for Switzerland's first discount stockbroker to go on line. The new Internet company is to be called "sb.c.swissbrokers.com" and has its headquarters in Basel. Its clients will be able to transact stocks and shares through their own account with the broker. Until now, investors have had to use a bank as an intermediary. Swissbrokers will begin operating later this month.

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