Swiss business roundup: ABB, Credit Suisse, HSBC, Logitech, Novartis (update)

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND – In Swiss business news this week:

ABB makes solar power move, European trains deal

rails_Swiss_train_300113ABB and Power-One siad Monday that their boards have agreed to a transaction in which ABB will acquire Power-One for $1.028 billion equity value. Power One provides renewable energy and energy-efficient power conversion and power management solutions. ABB says in a statement; “The transaction would position ABB as a leading global supplier of solar inverters – the ‘intelligence’ behind a solar PV system – to a market forecasted by the International Energy Agency to grow by more than 10 percent per year until 2021. This rapid growth is being driven by rising energy demand, especially in emerging markets, rising electricity prices and declining costs”.

The company’s Swiss subsidiary said Tuesday that it has landed a $120 million order with Saudi Electricity Company to supply transformers that will help improve capacity and enable more electricity supply to meet the country’s growing energy needs.

Chief executive Remo Luetolf is cited in an article published Thursday as saying ABB has signed a deal with Stadler Rail, worth $60 million, for equipment on trains in Europe, including the new Flirt line that will be part of North-South rail travel in Switzerland.

Credit Suisse profits rise neatly

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Brady Dougan, Credit Suisse CEO

Credit Suisse profits rose for the first quarter of 2013 after cost-cutting measures implemented in 2012. Switzerland’s second largest bank said 24 April that net income rose to CHF1.3 billion, up sharply from CHF44 million a year earlier. “With an underlying return on equity of 16% for the first quarter of 2013, we continue to show strong client franchise momentum and generate high returns on a substantially lower risk and cost base,” chief executive Brady Dougan said in a statement. “The first quarter of 2013 shows that the strategic measures we have successfully implemented since mid-2011 are effective in bringing results to the bottom line on a consistent basis.”

Share prices were up Wednesday on the news that the investment banking division performed well.

HSBC in Geneva under attack by French authorities

HSBC’s Geneva branch is under investigation by the French government, the prosecutor’s office in Paris said Tuesday. The bank is suspected of tax fraud and selling “illicit products” reports Reuters, in connection with French citizens with accounts at the bank, whose names turned up in the data provided by a former bank employee. Hervé Falciani, a former computer technician at the Geneva branch, gave the French government data he stole from the bank, in 2008. A Spanish court is hearing his case for an extradition request by Switzerland.

The British-based bank announced Tuesday that it is cutting 1,100 jobs in the UK as part of restructuring.

Logitech loss deepens

Logitech announced 2012 full year figures and first quarter 2013 results (fiscal year 2013 Q4) Thursday 25 April: sales were “$469 million, down 12 percent from $532 million in Q4 FY 2012. Excluding the unfavorable impact of exchange rates, sales were down by 11 percent compared to the prior year. The company posted an operating loss for the fourth quarter of $37 million compared to operating income of $24 million in the same quarter a year ago.” For the full 2013 fiscal year, ending March 31, 2013, sales were $2.1 billion, compared to $2.3 billion in FY 2012, for an operating loss of $252 million.

Novartis profits up, salary for new boss made public; US sues for fraud

Basel-based Novartis announced 24 April that first quarter profits for 2013 rose by 7 percent to $2.4 billion, thanks mainly to new markets growth and new drug approvals in the US. The good news for the company was dampened by an announcement the same day by the US Department of Justice that it is suing Novartis for an unnamed sum for fraud. The DOJ says the company disguised kickbacks as rebates, to entice pharmacies to move kidney transplant patients from competitors’ drugs to its own.

The company also said that incoming chairman Joerg Reinhardt will receive CHF3.8 million in compensation, half of that in cash and half in shares. He is also being paid euros 2.6 million in compensation for the loss of retirement benefits from his former employer. Reinhardt takes up the post 1 August. The company came in for widespread criticism earlier this year over remuneration plans for outgoing boss Daniel Vasella, and the planned farewell package of CHF72 million was ultimately scrapped.