Swiss business: Swatch buys suppliers, Roche hurt by franc, franc up against $

WTO in Geneva predicts slower exports in 2012

Source: WTO, Geneva, April 2012

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – The high Swiss franc went higher against the dollar Wednesday 11 April, as it “appreciated against 11 of 16 major peers”, Bloomberg reported late 11 April, noting that “strengthened against the dollar after the country sold bonds amid demand for its assets as a refuge from the euro region’s debt crisis.”

Thursday the exchange rate was $1.09/CHF1, with the dollar up from a January low of $1.04, but down from late January.

Roche Pharmaceuticals says it is being hurt by the strong franc, with sales dipping 1 percent in the first quarter of the year, but up 2 percent if the franc is taken out of the calculation. The company hinted it might raise its hostile bid for US drug company Illumina if the latter enters negotiations.

Swatch Group, riding on the continuing wave of success of the Swiss watch industry despite the high franc, announced 12 April that it is buying supplier Simon Et Membrez SA in Delémont, a family business founded in 1975 that now has 250 employees. In addition, Swatch Group is acquiring a related 60 percent holding in Termiboîtes SA (case polishing) in Courtemaîche, with 50 employees.

“Simon Et Membrez SA is a seamless fit alongside the existing Swatch Group production companies and logically complements Comadur, Ruedin and Lascor, the companies active in the production of watch casings within the Swatch Group,’ says Swatch. Simon Et Membrez SA manufactures high quality watch cases for the top price segment out of precious materials such as gold, titanium, platinum, palladium and premium-quality steels. Swatch Group has a long-standing business relationship with Simon Et Membrez SA for a number of its watch brands (Breguet, Blancpain). Simon Et Membrez SA will continue to supply third parties.”

Shock waves from sovereign debt crisis will ripple through trade world in 2012

In other business news Thursday the World Trade Organization in Geneva says growth in exports will continue to slow down in 2012, mainly as the result of a series of shocks such as Europe’s sovereign debt crisis. “World trade expanded in 2011 by 5.0 percent, a sharp deceleration from the 2010 rebound of 13.8 percent, and growth will slow further still to 3.7 percent in 2012, WTO economists project,” the organization says.