There was plenty of action on the Swiss business scene this week, despite the start of the holiday season. UBS's takeover of US broker, PaineWebber, and a new pan-Europe exchange for blue chip shares, made the biggest headlines.
On Monday the Swiss stock exchange (SWX) unveiled plans to set up a pan-European platform for blue chip shares in partnership with London's Tradepoint Financial Networks electronic exchange.
SWX will transfer all its blue chip trading to the new exchange - to be called virt-x - which will be based in London.
In the food industry, lips were smacking over the latest figures, which showed soaring sales last year driven by strong consumer confidence. Sales went up by 11 per cent to just over SFr10 billion. The Federation of Swiss Food Industries said that consumption rose by 9.9 per cent, while exports increased by more than 17 per cent.
A less welcome rise was in the number of complaints received by the Swiss banking ombudsman. In 1999 gripes from dissatisfied customers increased by a quarter over the previous year to 1,467 cases, many concerning dormant accounts.
On Tuesday the Swiss stock exchange decided to expand its leading Swiss Market Index (SMI) with the inclusion of five new companies. From October 2, the Swiss blue chip index will include 29 firms. The exchange said its index commission had decided to raise the maximum number of stocks in the SMI from 25 to 30.
The really big news of the week came on Wednesday when Switzerland's biggest banking group, UBS, announced it was buying the US brokerage PaineWebber for SFr18 billion ($10.6 million).
The takeover gives UBS access to PaineWebber's client base of 2.7 million wealthy individuals and institutions.
On Thursday the EuroAirport at Basel-Mulhouse announced a healthy increase in passenger numbers. Some 1,785,825 people used the airport during the first six months of the year, an eight per cent rise compared to the same period last year.
Switzerland's airports may have even more business coming their way after Swissôtel, the luxury hotel chain belonging to Swissair parent company, SAir, announced it was moving its headquarters back to Zurich. The company, which relocated to New York in 1996, said its future lay in Europe.
Also on Thursday Europe's biotechnology industry was heartened by the strong performance of the biotech investment group, BB Biotech. The company said the market had shown improved growth and that biotechnology indices had outperformed most others.
The week ended on Friday with the news that Switzerland's leading Internet provider, Blue Window, would be floated on the Swiss New Market stock exchange. The initial public offering is expected to take place within the next six months.
by Tom O'Brien
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