Swissinfo

Swissinfo

SWI swissinfo.ch – the international service of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC). Since 1999, swissinfo.ch has fulfilled the federal government’s mandate to distribute information about Switzerland internationally, supplementing the online offerings of the radio and television stations of the SBC. Today, the international service is directed above all at an international audience interested in Switzerland, as well as at Swiss citizens living abroad.

Articles by Swissinfo

Swiss care homes and hospitals charged for mouldy masks

Expired, foul-smelling masks cost nearly a franc apiece for facilities in canton Bern at the start of the coronavirus crisis. As a healthcare worker told Swiss public radio, SRF, on Monday, some of the masks they had received earlier this year had to be recalled because they were covered in mildew.

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Swiss humanitarian trade deal with Iran faces delay, questions 

Swiss “good offices” between Tehran and Washington have brought about a humanitarian aid channel allowing Swiss-based companies to send medicines and other vital goods to Iran despite US sanctions. But it remains to be seen to what extent the now-delayed deal will help the Iranian people versus Swiss political and economic interests. 

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Swiss banks eye Hong Kong clients for pro-democracy ties

Global wealth managers are examining whether their clients in Hong Kong have ties to the city’s pro-democracy movement, in an attempt to avoid getting caught in the crosshairs of China’s new national security law, according to six people with knowledge of the matter.

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Embattled Swiss watch industry targets mainland China

The absence of tourists due to Covid-19 will have significant negative repercussions on the Swiss watch industry. In an attempt to make up for this loss of income, manufacturers are focusing their activities more on mainland China as well as easing off the bling.

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Biggest Swiss-based arms manufacturers revealed

Exporting arms is big business for Switzerland, but who are the actual manufacturers and exporters? After a five-year legal dispute, names can finally be published. Swiss companies exported CHF501 million ($530 million) in war materiel in the first half of 2020, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) said on Tuesday, almost twice as much as the same period in 2019.

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Julius Baer to offer private equity to ultra-wealthy clients

Julius Baer has poached a senior executive from rival Swiss wealth manager UBS to set up a new division offering private equity and debt investments to its ultra-wealthy clients. The move illustrates how a prolonged period of low interest rates has forced the likes of UBS and Credit Suisse to prioritise offering illiquid private investments to their super-rich clients, who agree to forgo access to their capital in the hope of achieving higher returns.

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Doubts over EU regulations deal raise prospect of higher City costs

On a Monday morning, just over a year ago, investment firms across the EU found they were no longer allowed to trade on the Swiss stock exchange. It happened almost overnight — simply because Brussels refused to extend a regulatory “equivalence” deal with Switzerland, which gave each side free access to the other’s markets.

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Travel destinations seek tourists, but not the crowds

Some popular travel destinations have enjoyed the break – however temporary – from tourist crowds following Covid-19 restrictions. Others hope the hordes will return soon. Switzerland had not yet opened its border with Italy when its southern neighbour unexpectedly announced that Swiss citizens could enter the country starting on June 3.

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Motorway station supplier goes into liquidation

A company that supplies Swiss motorway service stations and convenience stores has gone into liquidation after failing to find new investors. Some 144 jobs at Lekkerland Switzerland are now at risk of disappearing by the end of the year.

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Swiss sustainable finance: world leader or wishful thinking?

The Swiss financial centre wants to take a lead in ethical investing. NGOs, however, fear the banks are more interested in cashing in than saving the planet. One thing everyone agrees on is the need for a universal definition of sustainable finance and measures to oversee the sector.

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Fewer cows, more cars: Switzerland misses its emission targets

Switzerland’s emissions have declined over the last 30 years, but not enough to meet the national targets set for 2020. What’s behind the gap? By 2020, greenhouse gas emissions in Switzerland should be down by 20% from what they were in 1990. That’s the target outlined in the federal CO2 law.

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Swiss government extends coronavirus economic support

The Federal Council is extending short-term unemployment benefits by another six months and plans to help cushion financial losses faced by public transport. On Wednesday, the government announced that it is extending the maximum period for receiving partial unemployment support from 12 to 18 months to counteract a rise in unemployment.

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SWISS slowly expands web of destinations from Zurich and Geneva

Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) has published its flight schedules up to October 24, the end of the summer timetable. As well as resuming service to more network destinations, it plans to intensify its frequencies on routes already restored in both its short-haul and long-haul networks.

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Tally Weijl to close quarter of stores

Swiss fashion chain Tally Weijl will close 200 of its 800 stores internationally and withdraw completely from Bulgaria. In Switzerland, it will close between five and ten of its 81 stores. However, the company says it has secured financing.

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Hands-off regulation of sustainable finance draws mixed response

Extra rules will only be imposed on the sustainable finance sector if banks fail to properly police themselves, says the Swiss government. The hands-off regulatory approach to ethical investing has been welcomed by financial players, but criticised by NGOs. Unveiling a report on sustainable finance on Friday, Finance Minister Ueli Maurer said legislators would stay in the background as a last resort measure.

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Swiss gold industry oversight too weak, say auditors

The Swiss gold refining industry has once again come under scrutiny with a report that criticises the lack of control over imports of the precious metal. The Federal Audit Office says it is too easy for illegal imports to enter the country and that sanctions are inadequate.

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Audit office denies ‘mass phenomenon’ of Covid-19 credit abuse

An interim report on government pay-outs to businesses during the Covid-19 crisis has revealed that there is suspected abuse in less than 1% of cases. Тhe Federal Audit Office investigated some 94,000 coronavirus loans amounting to CHF11.4 billion ($12 billion). It found indications of abuse in about 400 cases, which amounts to about CHF88 million in guarantees.

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Job postings fall by 27 percent due to pandemic

New job offers have dropped by over a quarter in Switzerland due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with hotel, restaurant, and personal services sectors worst hit. Between April and June, job postings went down by 27%, the human resources firm Adecco Switzerland reported on Tuesday.

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A Swiss-Japanese alliance that has thrived in the crisis

It was the start of one of the most unusual cross-cultural marriages when Roche bought a controlling stake in Chugai Pharmaceutical for $1.4bn back in 2002, promising arm’s length management. In the course of the 18 months of negotiations it took to reach a deal, Chugai, a Japanese pioneer in biotechnology, presented a single sheet of paper with a list of conditions it would not budge on, the main ones being management autonomy and the continued listing of its shares in Tokyo.

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Swiss public transport expected to lose CHF1.5 billion due to Covid-19

The collapse in the number of commuters and other passengers on Swiss trains and buses due to the pandemic is likely to leave a big hole in the finances of public transport companies. The Le Matin Dimanche and SonntagsZeitung newspapers reported on Sunday that Alliance SwissPass, the national public transport organisation, expects the number of yearly national train passes to fall by 6% and half-price annual passes to drop by 1% by the end of the year.

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SoftBank invests in Credit Suisse funds financing technology bets

SoftBank has quietly poured more than $500m into Credit Suisse investment funds that in turn made big bets on the debt of struggling start-ups backed by the Japanese technology conglomerate’s Vision Fund. SoftBank made the investment into the Swiss bank’s $7.5bn range of supply-chain finance funds, said three people familiar with the matter.

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100 Swiss watch brands risk extinction due to coronavirus, expert says

The coronavirus crisis could eliminate up to 100 Swiss watch brands from the market, according to an expert interviewed by the German-language weekly NZZamSonntag. Production came to a standstill during the pandemic and the most important export markets collapsed. Whether tourists with purchasing power will return to Switzerland remains in question. The watch industry, notes the newspaper, has been “caught in the perfect storm”.

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Swiss forests are healthy but need better management

Despite threats such as drought and insects, Swiss forests are better equipped to handle natural hazards than they were a decade ago. Not content to mind her own business, Susan studied journalism in Boston so she’d have the perfect excuse to put herself in other people’s shoes and worlds. When not writing, she presents and produces podcasts and videos.

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Expats in Switzerland need even deeper pockets

Three Swiss cities – Zurich, Bern and Geneva – are among the ten most expensive in the world for expatriates, according to the annual Cost of Living survey by consultants Mercer. Hong Kong remains at the top of the list of 209 countries for the third year in a row. Six of the top ten are in Asia, three in Switzerland and one in the United States.

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Swiss develop first see-through mask

A fully transparent surgical mask that filters out germs but allows facial expressions to be seen has been developed by Swiss scientists. Caregivers should be able to wear them from the summer of 2021.

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Lockdown led to big jump in worker productivity

Thanks to more focus and flexibility, productivity per worker increased by up to 16% during the Covid-19 lockdown in Switzerland, a study has calculated. The study by the Swiss Trade Association (SGV), reported in the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper, found that while hours worked dropped by 10% in the first quarter of 2020, GDP sank by just 2.6%.

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NGOs urge Swiss banks to ease developing country debt

A group of 11 NGOs has called on Swiss banks and government ministries to consider offering relief on billions in debt owed by developing nations. The consortium says that the coronavirus pandemic has increased economic pressure on the poorest countries.

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‘Green’ aviation fuel aims to power planes by 2030

The Covid-19 pandemic has overshadowed the climate crisis, but with the gradual return of consumption and travel, concerns about global warming are resurfacing. A Swiss start-up is developing an aviation fuel produced solely with water, solar energy and CO2. Will this emission-neutral fuel put an end to “flight shame”?

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2021 Geneva Motor Show ‘very uncertain’ as organisers reject loan

The 2021 edition of the Geneva International Motor Show remains touch and go after the organisers rejected the terms surrounding a state rescue loan. This year’s car show was cancelled four days prior to its opening due to the coronavirus outbreak, costing an estimated loss of CHF11 million ($11.3 million) for the organisers of Switzerland’s largest public event.

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Swiss industry endured horror April during pandemic peak

Swiss watch exports slumped by over 80% last month, recording sales of just CHF329 million ($339 million) – compared with CHF1.76 billion in April 2019. Both exports and imports in all industries endured a predictably dire performance as Covid-19 resulted in national lockdowns.

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Coronavirus fuels Swiss bicycling surge

While demand for public transport collapsed during Switzerland’s partial lockdown, bicycle usage soared across the country. But greater acceptance of cycling nationwide will depend on further political decisions and transport planning.

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Airfare refunds remain a sticking point

The head of a major Swiss travel agency has complained that Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) is not helping to reimburse clients fast enough. In the event of cancellations such as those prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic, Swiss package tour operators are legally obliged to provide refunds. But according to Thomas Stirnimann, the chief executive officer of Hotelplan, SWISS is not repaying the travel agents promptly.

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Poll: 70 percent of residents back ‘SwissCovid’ tracing app

A Swiss smartphone app that uses Apple-Google technology to help trace coronavirus infections has widespread support among the population, a new survey shows. Around 70% of Swiss residents welcome the introduction of the decentralised contact tracing application DP-3T, according to a poll published on Monday by the research consultancy Sotomo.

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Swiss finance minister concerned about Covid-19 debt crisis in Europe

Ueli Maurer has warned that the financial crisis following Covid-19 and the resulting instability in Europe are a danger for Switzerland. In an interview with public broadcaster RTS on Tuesday, he said that he is concerned about the repercussions on Switzerland of a possible debt crisis in certain countries, especially Italy.

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National Bank snubs calls for more coronavirus money

The Swiss National Bank (SNB) has dismissed demands to increase its payout to help the economy cope with the costs of the coronavirus pandemic. Governing board member Andréa Maechler an additional financial contribution would counteract monetary policy.

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Minister calls for extra funds for Swiss unemployment system

Economics Minister Guy Parmelin says it is crucial to end the lockdown and prevent a collapse of the unemployment scheme to ensure Switzerland’s economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis. Parmelin said the government would decide on an injection of additional funds into the state unemployment scheme at one of its next meetings.

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Swiss rank high in energy index

Switzerland has placed second in a global index comparing current energy systems and readiness for the transition to cleaner sources. In its new Energy Transition Indexexternal link, the World Economic Forum (WEF) identifies the coronavirus pandemic as a serious threat to the switch to renewable energies.

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Price watchdog criticises cost of becoming Swiss

Naturalisation fees vary among Switzerland’s 26 cantons. This has caught the eye of the federal price watchdog, who doubts that the fees fall within the legal framework. The law on Swiss citizenship stipulates that “the fees may not amount to more than is required to cover costs”. But for price watchdog Stefan Meierhans this is “more than questionable”, as he writes in his newsletter on Thursday. 

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SWISS publishes flight timetable for June

After grounding most of its fleet because of Covid-19, Swiss International Air Lines will partially restart its flight operations in June and plans to operate up to 190 flights from Zurich and Geneva to 41 European destinations. The return to the skies would follow in stages, and the range of flights available will gradually be increased over the coming weeks, SWISS said on Thursday, announcing its timetable for June.

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Top Swiss firms pay respects to ‘formative’ business leader Fritz Gerber

Pharmaceutical giant Roche and Zurich Insurance have paid their respects to business executive Fritz Gerber, who passed away on Sunday at the age of 91. “Fritz Gerber was one of the most influential business leaders in Switzerland during a period of formative development for the country’s modern, open economy,” Zurich Insurance said in a statement on Monday.

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Falcon exits Swiss private banking after 1MDB scandal

The Abu Dhabi-owned Falcon private bank says it is winding down activities in Switzerland and is in talks with a Swiss rival to take on its existing clients next year. Falcon was taken to task by regulators in both Switzerland and Singapore for its role in channelling assets from the Malaysian 1MDB fraud.

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Economic cost of pandemic will be enormous: SNB chief

Coronavirus is costing between CHF11 billion and CHF17 billion a month, putting such a strain on the Swiss economy that it will take years to recover. Swiss National Bank (SNB) chairman Thomas Jordan has predicted the worst depression since the 1930s.

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Swiss customs uncover blackmarket animal drugs scam

More than 200 farmers, many in Switzerland, are suspected of buying illegal medicaments for their livestock from a French blackmarket dealer. Swiss customs uncovered the scam when the veterinarian was stopped at the border with his car full of animal drugs.

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Swiss tourism industry struggling for survival

The Swiss tourism industry will take five years to recover from the coronavirus pandemic with around a quarter of companies in the sector fearing for their future. However, Martin Nydegger, head of Switzerland Tourism, believes something can still be salvaged for the industry this year.

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Swiss authorities resort to use of spyware for the first time

The annual report on Swiss surveillance operations in 2019 mentions the use of state-controlled monitoring software, known as GovWare, for the first time since it was authorised in 2018. The criminal prosecution authorities and the Federal Intelligence Service (FIS) reported the use of spyware for the first time with 12 such completed interventions before the end of 2019.

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What does business look like in a post-lockdown world?

“Our analysis of what the biggest global companies in Switzerland are up to. This week: the new normal for business, luxury watches, and biotech dilemmas.” Switzerland is easing up on the lockdown but what the new normal looks like for big companies is still a work in progress.

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Students’ finances affected by coronavirus lockdown 

Most Swiss students rely on part-time jobs during their studies, but the shutting of restaurants, bars, cinemas and gyms during the coronavirus pandemic has led to many of them losing a source of income. Around three quarters of students have a part-time job during their studies, with around half of them working on average two days a week, according to the Federal Statistical Office’s last figures.

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How Swiss cobalt traders are trying to prevent child labour

Swiss cobalt traders Glencore and Trafigura deal very differently with small-scale miners in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), many of whom are children. Eight kilograms of cobalt are needed for every electric car battery. More than 70% of the increasingly sought-after metal is mined in the southeast of the DRC. But most of the miners are not employed by mining companies.

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Global associations call for more flights to transport mail

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the Universal Postal Union (UPU) have asked governments to increase air capacity for postal services.  A 95% decrease in passenger flights coupled with an almost 30% increase in online purchasing is putting pressure on postal services delivering international mail, the UPU and IATA said in a statement on Monday.  They warned that air capacity for postal services is insufficient to meet demand.

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United States regulator approves Roche’s Covid-19 antibody test

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given emergency approval for use of the serological test developed by Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche, the company announced on Sunday. The test is designed to determine whether a person has been exposed to the new coronavirus and developed antibodies against the disease.

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Swiss airlines to get almost CHF2 billion corona aid boost

The Swiss aviation sector, including the airlines SWISS and Edelweiss, is set to receive financial aid of almost CHF1.9 billion to help it through the liquidity crisis caused by Covid-19. Some CHF1.275 billion ($1.31 billion) is directly for the two airlines, while up to CHF600 million will be for other companies vital to the functioning of the sector, the government announced on Wednesday.

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Swiss oil traders and banks burned by Venezuela ties

Several Swiss companies and banks have found themselves in the line of fire as the United States ramps up pressure on the Venezuelan government. Washington has sanctioned numerous top officials for money laundering and drug trafficking in the oil-rich but economically flailing Latin American nation.

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‘Corona-compliant’ Alpine cow processions to go ahead

The traditional driving of cows up to mountain pastures for the summer will still take place this year in Appenzell, northeastern Switzerland, despite the coronavirus pandemic. However, the processions will not be publicised so as not to attract tourists and spectators.

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Recognition for our report from the Swiss mountains

A longform report that we published last autumn has been shortlisted for the Swiss Press Award. The nomination is an honour for our team. Can people in Switzerland really live and work wherever they want on account of the digital revolution? Even in the mountains? A longform multimedia report by SWI swissinfo.ch has the answer.

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Stockpiling – a Swiss civic duty

During the coronavirus pandemic, panic buying has not been too problematic in Switzerland. But in previous global crises the Swiss tended to rush to the shops to stock up. Encouraged by the authorities, keeping emergency supplies remains a well-ingrained tradition for Swiss citizens.

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Former UBS boss Marcel Ospel dies aged 70

Ospel, who was ousted from his job as chairman of UBS in 2008 after fallout from the US subprime mortgage crisis, passed away on Sunday due to cancer. Born in Basel in 1950, Ospel began his career in 1977 with the Swiss Bank Corporation, an investment bank, before later engineering its merger with UBS in 1998.

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Record year for money laundering tip-offs

The number of reports of suspected money laundering jumped by about 25% in Switzerland last year. According to the Federal Money Laundering Reporting Officeexternal link, 7,705 reports were filed in 2019, compared to 6,126 the previous year.

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Swiss running low on butter

A shortage of frozen butter in Switzerland has the industry wanting to import 1,000 tons. Dairy farmers disagree. On Thursday an umbrella group for the dairy sector announced that it had applied to the federal authorities for permission to import 1,000 tons of butter.

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Switzerland facing biggest economic slump since 1975

In a revised forecast in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, federal authorities predict GDP will contract by 6.7% in 2020 and recover slowly in 2021. On Thursday, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) announced that it had adjusted 2020 economic forecasts to take into account sporting events affected by the pandemic.

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How Swiss drones and robots are changing farming

Remote sensing, big data, artificial intelligence and robotics are being integrated into everyday farm management. Based on information relayed by a Swiss start-up, the owner of a sugar mill in India tells local cane farmers it’s almost time to harvest their crop.

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Is Venezuela’s gold a liability for Switzerland?

Venezuela is illegally mining and trading in gold, and Switzerland could be one of its clients, according to Swiss media reports. swissinfo.ch spoke to law enforcement, customs and financial authorities to find out whether they are taking action.

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Coronavirus called a ‘decisive test’ for the UN system  

The pandemic is testing the limits of the United Nations system, say Geneva and New York-based experts, amid funding challenges and an ongoing blame game between the United States and China. The UN is marking its 75th anniversaryexternal link this year. What could have been a year of celebration is becoming a year of crisis.

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Interest groups present demands for coronavirus exit plans

Political parties, trade unions and other interest groups have published their proposals for the government to relax restrictions introduced to stem the Covid-19 pandemic. The calls come a day ahead of the government’s decision on a nationwide coronavirus exit strategy, notably a staggered resumption of business activities and the reopening of schools.

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Pandemic takes a heavy toll on consumer confidence 

Switzerland’s consumer confidence index plummeted to a “historically low” level in April, according to a Wednesday statement from the Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). The index fell to -40 points, compared to -9 points in January, when the previous survey was conducted. That marks the lowest results since the early 1990s.

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Covid-19 therapy could come by end of year, vaccine in 2021

Swiss pharma and business insiders predict that an effective drug therapy against Covid-19 will be available by the end of this year, but a vaccine might take a year longer than that. “In the best-case scenario, a drug could be available before the end of 2020,” said on Monday Francesco De Rubertis, director and co-founder of Medicxi, a Geneva-based venture capital company that invests in biotechnology.

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Ranking finds Swiss cities less expensive

Zurich and Geneva are still among the world’s ten most expensive cities, but both have slid down the rankings since last year. The full effect of the coronavirus crisis remains to be seen. In the Economist Intelligence Unit’s annual report comparing the cost of living in cities around the world, Zurich is tied for 5th place with Paris; in 2019 it ranked 4th.

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Cradle of agriculture in the Amazon region much older

People began growing manioc and squash much earlier than previously thought, a team of researchers led by the Swiss university of Bern has found. A study shows that the earliest human inhabitants of Moxos plains began transforming the tropical savanna eco-region in Bolivia 10,000 years ago, that is 8,000 earlier than previously thought.

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New debt relief measures on the horizon for struggling firms

The Swiss government is examining plans to stave off bankruptcies of companies struggling with the fallout of the coronavirus crisis. But regular debt collection procedures will resume on April 20. Justice Minster Karin Keller-Sutter said the aim was to stabilise the economy and to secure jobs.

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Swiss consortium launches bitcoin on Tezos blockchain

A consortium of Swiss cryptocurrency companies has incorporated bitcoin onto the Tezos blockchain. The move brings Tezos, which has based its foundation in Switzerland, a step closer to rival blockchain Ethereum. Launched in 2018, the Tezos blockchain was designed to play host to a new generation of decentralised finance, business and social projects.

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Swiss economy could lose up to CHF35 billion to pandemic

Coronavirus will cost the Swiss economy CHF22 billion ($22.7 billion) in lost productivity in the best-case scenario, economists have warned. Losses could easily mount up to CHF35 billion between March and June. A nationwide lockdown of non-essential high street shops and services has been accompanied by partial closures of industrial plants in some cantons.

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Swiss firm helps reduce shortage of disinfectant in Bavaria

The Swiss chemical company Clariant has started monthly production of two million litres of disinfectant at its facilities in neighbouring Germany amid the coronavirus pandemic. In a joint venture with Germany’s CropEnergies, Clariant is using its available infrastructure in Bavaria to blend the necessary ingredients, notably ethanol, into disinfectant, the Swiss company said.

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Government urged to do more to help companies

The Swiss government should scale up its efforts to help businesses overcome the coronavirus crisis, according to the director of the KOF Swiss Economic Institute. Transport companies are also calling for more assistance.

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Recession is unavoidable, reckon Swiss finance bosses

The coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally changed the economic outlook for Switzerland within a very short period of time, with Swiss CFOs more pessimistic than ever before. Neither during the euro crisis nor during the Swiss franc shock were chief financial officers as negative about economic prospects as they are today, according to the latest half-yearly survey published on Monday by consultants Deloitte.

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Swiss hospitals reportedly running out of money

Cash-strapped Swiss hospitals, in the front line of the fight against coronavirus, are calling for financial help and an end to the ban on non-emergency procedures which has sapped revenue, reports the SonntagsZeitung newspaper. It quotes the director of Valais Hospital Hugo Burgener as saying “we need liquidity to pay salaries”, and writes that the Graubünden cantonal hospital will also have to raise an additional CHF20 million ($20 million) in the next few days.

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Swiss watch exports predicted to fall by 25 percent in 2020

The closure of shops caused by the spread of the coronavirus worldwide will cost Swiss watch firms dear, but exports are expected to rebound next year. “The Swiss watch industry will experience the largest decline in the past 50 years,” says a study published by private bank Vontobel on Wednesday.

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Helping people to breathe

Production has been stepped up at a company in eastern Switzerland that makes breathing machines, as health services struggle to help a growing number of coronavirus patients. Switzerland is one of the countries most affected by the virus, with more than 17,800 positive tests and more than 488 deaths.

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Around 20,000 healthcare workers seek partial unemployment benefits

With the ban on non-emergency surgeries and other procedures, some hospitals and medical practices are applying for partial unemployment support for at least 20,000 healthcare workers. On Thursday, the German language paper TagesAnzeiger reported that due to the social distancing restrictions and ban on non-urgent medical procedures in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, some doctors and other healthcare professionals don’t have enough work.

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Swiss commodities sector grapples with Covid-19 turbulence

The strategic importance of commodities and experience in handling fluctuations has helped commodity firms weather the coronavirus storm better than most. swissinfo.ch caught up with Florence Schurch, general secretary of The Swiss Trading and Shipping Association (STSA), to find out how the commodities sector is handling the crisis and what it means for Switzerland.

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Businesses reach out to people at home

While most businesses have temporarily shut down, others are starting up or finding new ways to reach the public in their homes. Some Swiss farm shops, like Thierry Miauton’sexternal link in Oleyres, canton Fribourg, are delivering local produce to people’s doorsteps, so the clients don’t have to risk possible contact with virus-contaminated shoppers in supermarkets.

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EasyJet Switzerland seeks state aid as virus empties skies

Airlines around the world are battling to survive the coronavirus pandemic. After grounding its fleet of planes on Monday, EasyJet Switzerland has confirmed that it is hoping to receive Swiss state aid. EasyJet said on Monday that it had grounded its fleet of 344 planes and had no clear idea when it might resume flights. In Switzerland, the airline normally operates flights to Geneva, Basel-Mulhouse and Zurich airports.

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Swiss real estate market suffers fallout from epidemic

The Covid-19 crisis could spell an end to the previously rosy situation for Switzerland’s real estate investors. Investors in residential property look back on a successful 2019 both in terms of value increase and of returns. Forecasts for the current year were optimistic until recently, for both property owners and renters.

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Swiss firms rush to claim emergency coronavirus loans

A third of a CHF20 billion ($21 billion) fund offering state guaranteed loans to small and medium sized Swiss companies has been used up just four days after being introduced. The loan facility has already promised CHF6.6 billion in funding of up to CHF500,000 to nearly 32,000 firms – an average of CHF207,000 per company.

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Record exports drive up Swiss chocolate sales

The value of Swiss chocolate exports topped CHF1 billion ($1.05 billion) for the first time last year, led by increased demand from Canada, the United States, China, the Middle East and Singapore. Domestic consumption of the delicacy also grew slightly following declining demand in previous years. Sales for Swiss chocolate makers rose 2.2% in 2019 to reach almost CHF1.79 billion.

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France drops blocks on face mask exports to Switzerland

After Germany, France has lifted restrictions on the delivery of hygienic face masks to Switzerland. Some two million masks are needed each day, according to the Federal Office for Public Health. The French embassy to Switzerland made the announcementexternal link on Saturday, paving the way for two shipments of FFP2 hygienic masks to go ahead from France to Switzerland.

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Coronavirus: Why staying home is merely a recommendation in Switzerland

Readers of swissinfo.ch have many questions about the way the Swiss are handling the pandemic. In this first collection of answers, we tackle social distancing measures and how the population is taking them onboard. Switzerland has progressively tightened measures aimed at limiting the spread of Covid-19 across the country.

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Companies contemplate bleak coronavirus outlook

Swiss companies are reporting slumping sales, cashflow problems and bottlenecks in the supply of crucial materials as the coronavirus crisis hits the economy. However, a survey also found that three out of four firms are satisfied with a CHF42 billion ($43 billion) state bailout package.

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Global curbs on medical exports imperil poor nations

Around 50 countries have introduced curbs on exports of medical supplies, including ventilators. This poses a major risk for poor countries, a Swiss study has revealed. The past fortnight has seen nations around the world scrambling for medical supplies and equipment to combat the fast-spreading coronavirus.

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Big reductions in Swiss public transport services

Swiss public transport has been widely reduced as of Monday, with the Federal Railways cutting back on services as part of nationwide anti-coronavirus measures. The scaling back of Europe’s most-used rail network in an effort to combat the spread of Covid-19 was announced last week as part of wider measures to reduce social contact and slow down the pace of life in the country.

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Swiss hospitals take French coronavirus patients

Three Swiss hospitals have agreed to provide intensive care treatment for six seriously ill coronavirus patients from the neighbouring Alsace region of France. However, experts fear that Switzerland’s health infrastructure will soon be stretched by the rising number of pandemic victims.

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‘We will come through this together’

The upheaval caused by the coronavirus, Covid-19, is all around us. And I know many are anxious, worried and confused. That’s absolutely natural. We are facing a health threat unlike any other in our lifetimes. Meanwhile, the virus is spreading, the danger is growing, and our health systems, economies and day-to-day lives are being severely tested.

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Shortage of hospital beds in Ticino as virus toll rises

The Swiss health authorities have raised alarm over the limited care facilities in one of its regions hardest hit by the coronavirus epidemic. “The situation in Ticino is dramatic,” said Daniel Koch of the Federal Office of Public Health at a news conference on Thursday.

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Banks lobby regulators to relax post-crisis rules

The global banking industry is demanding regulators relax or delay a raft of post-crisis rules on everything from capital and liquidity to accounting and climate change, which they argue are hampering their ability to respond to the coronavirus crisis.

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Coronavirus catches managers off guard

The coronavirus has laid bare the fragilities and complex dependencies generated by globalisation. American-Swiss professor Suzanne de Treville, a specialist in helping firms relocate their industrial activities to the west, hopes that this crisis will trigger some major soul-searching.

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Enough food for months, government assures

The Swiss authorities say there are food stocks available to consumers for more than four months to cope with the current coronavirus epidemic. “There is no reason to panic over food,” the government’s delegate for national economic supply, Werner Meier, said in an interview published on Wednesday in various newspapers belonging to the CH Media group.

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Swiss industry fears consequences of US travel ban

A United States ban on travellers from Europe has been condemned as “incomprehensible” by leading Swiss manufacturing association, Swissmem. The Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce has also weighed in, saying firms would seriously suffer if borders remain closed for longer than a month.

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Swiss lawyers seek to keep special ‘advisor’ status in the shadow economy

The Swiss government faces resistance to efforts to tighten anti-money laundering rules that close loopholes for lawyers who act as “advisors” in setting up offshore financial structures. Anti-corruption expert Mark Pieth writes how the lawyer lobby in Switzerland is trying to maintain their special status at the expense of Switzerland’s attempts to improve its reputation as a laundering haven.

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How will we judge multinationals when the epidemic is over?

Our regular analysis of what the biggest global companies in Switzerland are up to. This week: responsible business in an epidemic, child labour on coffee farms, and Responsible Business debate. What has made multinational companies in Switzerland so successful is exactly what is making them particularly vulnerable in a global epidemic.

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Online shopping breaches CHF10 billion mark

Swiss shoppers spent more than CHF10 billion ($11 billion) online last year, an increase of 8.4% from 2018, according to a study of retail habits. Electronics and fashion goods dominated orders. Food accounted for just 2.8% of the total goods consumed (up from 1.8% in 2018), but the report’s authors expect orders to increase this year with people reluctant to go to supermarkets in view of the coronavirus outbreak.

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No ‘ghost flights’ to Zurich airport, authorities say

With passenger numbers down due to Covid-19, some airlines want authorities to loosen rules maintain that airport landing slots are lost unless fully used. “Use it or lose it”: regulations state that when an airline is allocated a landing slot, it must use it at least 80% of the time planned, or else risk being stripped of it the following year.

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Roche tells all Spanish staff to work remotely

Swiss pharma giant Roche said on Tuesday it would send all of its 1,200 Spanish employees home starting from Wednesday to work remotely amid the coronavirus outbreak. “The company will maintain its normal activity and will guarantee, as until now, the supply of medicines to hospitals,” Roche said in a statement.

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Swiss hotels poised for big losses after record 2019

The Swiss hotel industry could lose out on up to half a billion francs in 2020 due to the impact of Covid-19, the boss of the country’s tourism body has said. Martin Nydegger of Switzerland Tourism said on Monday that he expects the virus to account for some 2.1 million fewer overnight stays in Swiss hotels this year compared with 2019, amounting to financial losses of CHF532 million ($574 million).

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Chinese economic disruption hits Swiss supply chains

China’s sharp contraction in economic activity over the past month due to the coronavirus epidemic is sending shockwaves across the globe. Switzerland is one of the top ten countries exposed to Chinese supply disruptions, a United Nations report reveals.

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Red Bull profits from Swiss sugar subsidies

The makers of sweet products benefit from the federal subsidies paid to sugar beet farmers in Switzerland. The price of sugar in Switzerland has been on the decline for years. As a result, 400 farmers have quit producing it in recent years. Sugar beet producers receive annual subsidies amounting to CHF36 million ($38 million).

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Swiss business takes on global waste

Mr. Green, a recycling subscription service with a social mission, has been a big hit with busy families and businesses in cities in Switzerland. But can it work in Africa? Swiss entrepreneur Keiran Smith had no connection with Kenya before starting Mr. Green Africa.

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Swiss parliament assumes control of Crypto probe

The Swiss parliament has insisted that it will take control of and merge the ongoing investigations into the Crypto spying affair that has rocked the Alpine nation. On Wednesday, members of the parliamentary control delegation decided to immediately take over the direction of investigation launched by the Federal Council (executive branch) on February 11.

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Unions say anti-EU initiative is bad for workers

Trade unions have come out against the initiative to scrap the freedom of movement agreement with the European Union, saying a “yes” vote would be “an attack on all workers”. Accepting the right-wing proposal would lead to a situation whereby “collective agreements and wage checks would be replaced by an unfettered competition of all against all,” Swiss Trade Union Federation boss Pierre-Yves Maillard said on Monday.

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Who wins and who loses because of negative interest rates?

The Swiss National Bank’s negative interest rates, introduced five years ago, are having an increasingly significant economic and social impact. But despite criticism, the SNB does not want to remove them. It considers the measure necessary to stop the Swiss franc appreciating too much.

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Swiss digital stock exchange offers partners ownership stake

The Swiss stock exchange is offering strategic partners a stake of up to 30% in its new digital assets trading platform. The SDX digital exchange hopes to launch by the end of this year, trading digital shares, bonds and other assets on a distributed ledger technology (DLT) platform.

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Ermotti’s UBS record: solid but not all plain sailing

Sergio Ermotti arrived at UBS in 2011 during a dark chapter in the history of Switzerland’s largest bank. He will depart in November, nine years later, with a reputation for injecting greater stability but not for stamping out controversy. Ironically, UBS arguably faces some greater challenges than cross-town rival Credit Suisse, where earlier this month former CEO Tidjane Thiam was forced to step down unceremoniously following an internal spying scandal.

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New Swiss aid budget proposes more funds but for fewer countries

The Swiss government wants to set aside CHF11.25 billion ($11.43 billion) in development aid for the 2021-2024 period. The governing Federal Council adopted its Strategy for International Cooperation on Wednesday after opening it up for public consultation. It will still have to be approved by parliament.

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Tax on legal weed repealed

The Swiss Federal Court has ruled that cannabis – the legal, low-THC version – should not be subject to the tobacco tax. Responding to the complaints of three cannabis production companies, the court found that there was no legal basis for a 25% tobacco tax on the sales price of cannabis. The tax will be dropped immediately.

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Car emissions rising due to imported guzzlers, says report 

New cars imported into Switzerland have not been respecting the prescribed norms on CO2 emissions, with emission levels actually rising in 2017 and 2018, says a report published on Tuesday. Nearly half of importers failed to meet compulsory targets in 2018, according to the Federal Office of the Environment’s report for parliament. 

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Clariant to cut up to 600 jobs as profit falls

The Swiss specialty chemicals firm Clariant says it will cut up to 600 jobs to save money after a drop in profit in 2019. The firm expects the slow economic situation this year to continue to affect demand. “For 2020, given the current sluggish economic environment and continued adverse foreign exchange conditions, growth will be more limited and additional efficiency measures have been defined for each of the businesses to support the margin increase,” the Basel-based firm said in a statement on Thursday.

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Thiam ‘proud’ of his record as he departs Credit Suisse

Outgoing Credit Suisse chief executive Tidjane Thiam said he was proud of what he has achieved at the bank as it delivered strong 2019 results and a promising start to this year. Thiam handed in his resignation last week after losing the confidence of the board following a spying scandal that had seriously damaged the bank’s reputation. Thursday was Thiam’s last day in office.

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Former Swiss defence minister denies knowledge of Crypto-CIA links

Was former Swiss cabinet minister Kaspar Villiger aware that the Swiss firm Crypto AG was controlled by the CIA? Swiss media say newly released CIA documents support this claim, but the ex-defence minister vehemently denies it. The CIA records are “not correct”, the former defence minister (1989-1995) told Swiss public television, SRF, in a statement published on Wednesday.

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Investigation opened into Swiss encryption firm linked to CIA

The Swiss government has opened an investigation into a decades-old spying affair involving Swiss firm Crypto, following reports by Swiss public broadcaster SRF, German broadcaster ZDF and The Washington Post. The government confirmed on Tuesday that it had opened an investigation into the reports that Crypto, a Zug-based communications encryption firm, was secretly used by the CIA and West German intelligence services for decades.

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Welfare payments in 2018 averaged CHF10,379 per person

Net expenditure on social assistance in Switzerland increased by 1.3% in 2018 compared with the previous year. The government, cantons and municipalities paid out a total of CHF8.4 billion ($8.6 billion). Each recipient of social assistance received an average of CHF10,379, the Federal Statistical Office said in a statement on Tuesday. This is an increase of 2.4% on 2017.

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Credit Suisse chairman hopeful to see out term

The chairman of the Credit Suisse bank says he does not expect to be voted out of office before his term ends next year following the departure of the bank’s CEO on Friday amid a surveillance scandal. Urs Rohner says he has received “clear responses” from shareholders that they back the company board policy to accept CEO Tidjane Thiam decision to step down.

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Switzerland spends more than the EU on education

Switzerland’s public finances rose by 1.7% in 2018 to CHF232.6 billion ($238.8 billion) compared with 2017. As a percentage of the total, Switzerland spent more on education and less on defence than the European Union. The largest budget item remained social protection, costing almost CHF92 billion or 39.4% of the total, the Federal Statistical Office (FSO) said on Thursday.

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Three Credit Suisse investors back Tidjane Thiam in board battle

Credit Suisse’s top shareholders have thrown their support behind chief executive Tidjane Thiam and called on chairman Urs Rohner to quit, in a high-stakes power struggle at the Swiss bank following a spy scandal last year. Relations between Mr Rohner and Mr Thiam have been increasingly strained since revelations that Credit Suisse hired a corporate espionage company to follow Iqbal Khan, a former executive who defected to arch-rival UBS.

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Food bank: a third of Swiss food ‘goes to waste’

About a third of the food produced for Swiss consumption went to waste last year, according to the food bank foundation Schweizer Tafe/Table Suisse. That is the equivalent of 2.6 million tonnes of food. Five percent of the losses occurred in the retail trade. The foundation collected 3,820 tonnes of food that was not for sale but still in perfect condition – a 5.6% increase relative to 2018.

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Study spotlights niche market for solo Chinese tourists

The tourism industry in central Switzerland could benefit from increased efforts to focus on individual holidaymakers from China, according to a study. A report by the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Artsexternal link found that guests from China travelling individually in Europe take a special interest in culinary events and that they are likely to receive information about new offers via their mobile phones. 

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Julius Bär to cut 300 jobs after 2019 profit drop

Julius Bar

Swiss wealth manager Julius Bär will cut 300 jobs this year, its chief executive said on Monday, as it looks to boost profitability after a double-digit percentage earnings fall in 2019. The private bank wants to boost profitability with a new three-year strategy to deal with continued margin pressures, Philipp Rickenbacher said.

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Peru cracks down on illegal gold mining

Wildcat mining has devastated large chunks of the Peruvian Amazon, where gold is extracted and makes its way to the refineries and banks in Switzerland.swissinfo.ch visited the southeastern region of Madre de Dios and spoke to artisanal miners who have benefited from the gold rush to educate their families and create jobs, as well as those who have fallen afoul of the law.

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Sport generates billions for Swiss economy, study finds

Sports-related activities are worth CHF22.2 billion ($22.8 billion) a year to the Swiss economy, a national report has revealed. Overall, sport accounts for 1.7% of Swiss gross domestic product (GDP), according to a report external linkby the Federal Office of Sport released on Tuesday which uses 2017 figures. This is comparable to the machine tools or metal products sectors.

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Swiss venture capital funding breaks CHF2 billion barrier

Swiss start-ups and young companies attracted nearly CHF2.3 billion ($2.4 billion) from deep-pocketed investors last year. The figure is nearly double the CHF1.2 billion collected in 2018 and sets a new record. New ventures in the ICT and fintech sectors received the largest slice of funding (CHF1.2 billion), but financial support for early stage biotech firms also received a significant boost (CHF625 million), according to the annual report from online news portal startupticker.ch and the investor association SECAexternal link.

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Foreign demand remains high for luxury Swiss-made watches

Swiss watch manufacturers exported timepieces worth over CHF21 billion ($21.7 billion) last year – the industry’s third-best result ever. Watchmaking is Switzerland’s third-biggest export sector after pharmaceutical and machine tools. Almost 95% of production is sold abroad, the majority to Asia.

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Zurich Airport looks to Asia to expand its airports business

The company recently won a bid to build and run an airport near India’s capital and has its sights set on other emerging markets in Asia. In November 2019, Zürich Flughafen AG (Zurich Airport) won a 40-year contract to build and operate the planned Noida International Airport in Jewar, located around 80km from the country’s capital, New Delhi. 

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Restructuring at Philip Morris to hit 265 jobs

Tobacco giant Philip Morris says 265 jobs in Switzerland will be affected by restructuring plans, of which almost two-thirds of posts may be transferred to other European sites. After much uncertainty and news speculation, Philip Morris (PMI) confirmed on Monday its restructuring plans at operational centres in Lausanne and Neuchâtel in French-speaking western Switzerland.

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Swiss Economics Minister wants to move US trade deal forward

Talks with US President Donald Trump this week at WEF were useful, says Swiss Economics Minister Guy Parmelin, who is cautiously optimistic about moving trade negotiations forward. “Trump had questions for me. He asked me about trade,” said Parmelin in an interview with the Sonntagszeitung newspaper. “I also informed him about Swiss investments in the United States.

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Federer and world’s smallest gold coin go up for sale 

Another 37,000 coins featuring tennis star Roger Federer – the first living person to receive that honor – went on sale on Thursday, according to Swissmint. Also up for grabs is the “smallest gold coin in the world” inspired by Albert Einstein and a bimetallic coin featuring the European hare.

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Swiss businesses and start-ups set record in 2019

Entrepreneurs are thriving in Switzerland, with a record number of companies launched in 2019 and unprecedented investment pumped into start-ups. Switzerland saw 44,482 companies founded last year, the highest number to date and a 3% increase on 2018, according to the Swiss Official Gazette of Commerce. Investments in start-ups also grew strongly in 2019, topping CHF2 billion ($2.06 billion) for the first time.

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Swiss watchdog bans former bank CEO over insider trading

The Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) has banned the former chief executive officer of a Swiss bank from financial activities over a “serious case of insider trading”. FINMA also ordered the confiscation of CHF730,000 ($752,000) of “unlawfully generated profits” from the ex-CEO, whom FINMA did not name.

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Switzerland remains world’s most attractive country for skilled workers

Switzerland continues to lead the world in talent competitiveness, having held the number one spot since the annual Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GTCI) was launched in 2013. According to the 2020 indexexternal link, the three main reasons for Switzerland’s top position are the country’s high quality of life (interesting jobs, high salaries and good career opportunities), its dual education system which combines education with vocational training, and its good legal and economic framework.

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Swiss firms lauded for climate protection measures

Nestlé, Givaudan, Panalpina and the Bern Cantonal Bank are among 179 companies given a top “A” rating in a global survey of transparency and action on climate change. On Monday, non-profit group Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) published its study of 8,000 companies worldwide. Only 2% of them made it onto the A-list, the organisation said.

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Davos 2020: What to watch for at this year’s World Economic Forum

World leaders, chief executives, thinkers and celebrities are gathering in the Swiss mountain town of Davos for the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting. The event, which begins on Tuesday, has earned a reputation for high-altitude pontificating as the global elite gather to pitch their takes on topics picked by WEF founder Klaus Schwab, from deglobalisation to the fourth industrial revolution.

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How Zurich Airport prepares for Trump visit to Davos

American secret service agents have been granted access to Zurich Airport’s control tower as they prepare for US President Donald Trump’s visit to the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, the NZZ am Sonntag reports. WEF, which starts in the Swiss mountain resort on Monday, attracts wealthy, high-profile business and political figures, along with academics and other leaders of society.

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‘Yes to an initiative promoting moderately-priced housing’

The free market in Switzerland has built housing units that remain empty because they are too expensive, or in out-of-the-way places, says Marina Carobbio Guscetti. The Social Democrat senator believes that the initiative “More affordable housing” will fix these problems. It will help the middle class and the less well-off.

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Swiss franc climbs after US adds it to ‘manipulation’ watchlist

The US Treasury has called on the Swiss government to cut taxes and spend more public money, after it added the country to a watchlist of those it accuses of currency manipulation. The Swiss franc nudged up to a near three-year high against the euro on Tuesday as markets anticipated the move would limit the Swiss National Bank’s appetite for aggressive action to try to hold down its currency in future.

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US places Switzerland on trade ‘watch list’

The US Treasury Department has put Switzerland back on a biannual list of countries that are under observation because of large trade surpluses with the United States. Switzerland was previously included on the Monitoring List between October 2016 and October 2018, “having a material current account surplus and engaged in persistent, one-sided intervention in the foreign exchange market”.

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Signatures collected for vote on tax deduction for parents

Opponents of a proposal to increase tax deductions for parents have succeeded in collecting enough signatures to force a referendum on the subject. On Tuesday the leftwing Social Democratic Party submitted the necessary signatures required to trigger a referendum. The party is opposed to a “tax bonus for rich parents” and collected 60,000 signatures in two-and-a-half months to force a nationwide vote on the reform, approved by parliament last September.

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Swiss scientists make 18-carat ‘plastic gold’

Five years ago researchers at the federal technology institute ETH Zurich developed the lightest gold in the world, which could float on a cappuccino. But there wasn’t much they could do with it. Now they have created 18-carat light gold which can be used for watches, jewellery and electronics.

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Swiss unemployment drops to new low 

The Swiss unemployment rate fell to 2.3% in 2019, according to the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). That’s the lowest yearly rate for almost 20 years. SECO said in a statementexternal link on Friday that 106,932 people were registered with regional job centres in 2019, 9.5% less than in the previous year.

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Trump to attend World Economic Forum in Switzerland

US President Donald Trump plans to attend the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos this month, making up for an appearance he cancelled during last year’s US government shutdown. White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham confirmed on Wednesday that Trump would attend the annual forum, which attracts wealthy, high-profile business and political figures, along with academics and other leaders of society.

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Swiss unions call for ‘social agenda’ in EU relations

Switzerland’s largest trade union group has repeated its warning that any framework deal reached with the European Union must respect measures to protect wages from cross-border competition. At the annual conference of the Swiss Trade Union Federation on Thursday, the objective of keeping wage measures in place was hammered home by group president Pierre-Yves Maillard.

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‘Farting archaeobacteria’ awarded Swiss energy prize

Flatulent bacteria, electric vehicles and a supply network for greenhouses are among the winners of this year’s Watt d’Or competition organised by the Federal Office of Energy. “What is the link between flatulence and renewable energy?” the energy office asked. “The answer is Archie, the farting archaeobacteria.”

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Swiss National Bank expects profit of CHF49 billion for 2019

The Swiss National Bank (SNB) expects to post an annual profit of CHF49 billion ($50.29 billion) for 2019, it said on Thursday, citing big gains from foreign bonds and stocks bought to dampen the value of the safe-haven Swiss franc. The profit, following a loss of CHF15 billion in 2018, means the central bank will pay out CHF2 billion to the Swiss government and cantons for last year and will hold discussions with the finance ministry on a possible additional distribution for 2019 and 2020.

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Swiss rents fall but property prices increase in 2019

Rents in Switzerland fell by an average of 0.5% last year but some regions bucked the trend. Last year was a good one for tenants, according to the Swiss Real Estate Offer Indexexternal link, which was published on Tuesday. December alone saw rents dropping 0.4% on average. The most significant drops were in central Switzerland (-1.7%), the Lake Geneva region (-1.1%) and northwestern Switzerland (-0.9%).

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Swatch offers compromise in watch movements deadlock

Switzerland’s largest watch maker, Swatch, says it will limit the number of movements it makes for the industry in a bid to end a long-running stand-off with the anti-trust regulator. At the end of last year, the Competition Commission (Comco) temporarily suspended deliveries of watch movements from Swatch’s ETA unit to big rivals from January 1, 2020.

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Revolutionary idea to store green power for the grid

Stacking blocks of concrete with a crane to store energy and use the force of gravity to keep producing electricity when renewable sources are lacking: simple but revolutionary, the battery solution proposed by the Ticino start-up Energy Vault is attracting investors and customers from around the world.

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Mnuchin to head US delegation to Davos

The US delegation at the upcoming World Economic Forum (WEF) gathering in Davos will be led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. It is unclear whether President Donald Trump will again attend the annual event.

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Technical problem shuts down Swiss nuclear power station

The Leibstadt nuclear power station in northern Switzerland has been disconnected from the power grid and shut down because of a technical fault. Once the cause has been clarified, the plant will be put back into operation as soon as possible, the operator said. It is not clear when that will be.

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Facebook’s Libra has failed in current form, says Swiss president

Facebook’s Libra project needs reworking to be approved, according to the president of Switzerland, where the cryptocurrency is seeking regulatory consent. “I don’t think [Libra has a chance in its current form], because central banks will not accept the basket of currencies underpinning it,” Finance Minister Ueli Maurer, who held the rotating presidency in 2019, told Swiss public radio, SRF.

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Credit Suisse: FINMA appoints independent investigator

The Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority FINMA says it will have an independent auditor investigate Swiss bank Credit Suisse “in the context of observation activities”. “The observation activities carried out by Credit Suisse raise various compliance issues,” FINMA said in a statement on Friday evening.

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Parliament approves CHF6 billion fighter jet package

The Swiss parliament has approved the purchase of a new fleet of fighter jets to the tune of some CHF6 billion ($6.1 billion). The plans may yet face approval by citizens. Both chambers of parliament have now accepted plans proposed by the government to buy up to 30 new fighter jets, a step it says is vital for the stability and security of the country.

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Parliament rubber stamps free trade deal with Indonesia

The Swiss parliament has given the go-ahead for a free trade deal with Indonesia, although not without debates about sustainability and the Asian country’s production of palm oil. Almost exactly a year after the deal was signed between the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and Indonesia, the Swiss parliament gave its green light on Thursday.

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Swiss railways are becoming safer, new figures show

There has been a fall in the number of accidents and fatalities on the Swiss railways, according to new national figures. On Tuesday, the Federal Statistical Office reported a total of 70 rail accidents and 14 deaths in 2018. This is the lowest number of annual fatalities since 2011. In the 2000s there were between 200 and 282 reported accidents each year and 20-40 deaths, excluding suicides on the Swiss rail network.

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Poverty in Switzerland rises 10 percent in a year 

Although Switzerland is rich, poverty within the country continues to rise, says a report released on Tuesday. Poverty affected 675,000 people including 100,000 children in 2017, a 10% increase on the previous year, according to the report (in French) by the non-governmental organisation Caritas.

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Court rejects Lake Zurich cablecar project

A Zurich court has rejected plans for a cablecar link crossing over Lake Zurich, stating that the project, known as ‘Zuribahn’, did not have sufficient local support. The court annulled construction plans for the city cablecar, which had been presented by Zurich Cantonal Bank (ZKB) to mark the bank’s 150th birthday in 2020.

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Court rejects damages claims against Volkswagen and Swiss importer

A Zurich commercial court has dismissed claims for damages by a consumer group against the German car firm Volkswagen and Swiss importer Amag, linked to the “Dieselgate” emissions-rigging scandal. In a December 6 ruling published on Tuesday, Zurich canton’s commercial court said the SKS consumer group did not have the legal status or procedural capacity to file a complaint.

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Léman Express to cut Geneva traffic jams

Commuters got their first proper taste on Monday of what’s been hailed as the largest cross-border regional rail network in Europe, the Léman Express.The network, which opened officially on Sunday, is the result of decades of planning and almost eight years of construction work. It offers a fast cross-city rail link from Geneva’s central train station to Annemasse in France.

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Novartis withdraws patent claim on leukaemia treatment

Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis has backed down in a patent dispute over the leukaemia therapy Kymriah following opposition from NGOs. The Swiss NGO Public Eye is claiming victory in the European Patent Officeexternal link battle, but Novartis says the patent in question was only one of several it has in place on the (CAR)-T cell therapy treatment it had developed together with the University of Pennsylvania.

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Swiss economy tipped to remain stagnant next year

The Swiss economy is not expected to see any sustainable growth until 2021 at the earliest, according to government forecasters. The Swiss National Bank (SNB) agreed, keeping negative interest rates unchanged. A government expert group concluded that economic growth would rise only 0.9% this year, 1.7% in 2020 and 1.2% in 2021.

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Swiss firms’ investments double abroad  

Companies in Switzerland invested double the amount abroad in 2018 than the previous year, figures show. But foreign investors withdrew capital from Switzerland due to a US tax reform. In 2018, companies domiciled in Switzerland invested CHF 61 billion abroad ($62 billion) (compared to CHF30 billion in 2017). Around three-quarters of the direct investment were from firms in the services sector, the Swiss National Bank said on Friday.

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Can Swiss business and human rights co-exist?

Switzerland performs a delicate dance when it comes to promoting business interests, maintaining neutrality and defending human rights. Daniel Warner looks at recent examples and the stakes at play. Doing business with other countries and promoting human rights can and do go hand in hand, Swiss State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Pascale Baeriswyl recently told swissinfo.ch.

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Nestlé identifies over 18,000 child labourers in cocoa supply chain

As part of its monitoring programme, Swiss multinational Nestlé has identified 18,283 children performing “unacceptable” tasks at cocoa farms that supply beans to the company. Over half have been rehabilitated following company intervention. In 2012, Nestlé established a Child Labor Monitoring and Remediation System (CLMRS) in partnership with the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) in the Ivory Coast to identify children at risk of carrying out problematic jobs and to take remediation measures.

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Swiss seek compromise amid ‘lack of will’ at climate talks

This year, the signal from the scientific community has been loud and clear on climate change: something needs to be done, and soon. But leadership at the United Nations’ annual climate conference appears less clear-cut, and the head of the Swiss delegation is frustrated by hesitation to move ahead.

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Swiss asset managers linked to Austrian corruption scandals

Swiss asset managers are involved in some of Austria’s biggest corruption scandals, according to the SonntagsZeitung newspaper. The paper writes that in ongoing cases involving far-right politicians Jörg Haider, Karl-Heinz Grasser and Heinz-Christian Strache, the trail leads back to Zurich, Zug and Nidwalden in Switzerland. It sources this information to a whistleblower.

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French strike disrupts rail traffic with Switzerland 

A national strike in France is causing severe disruptions to high-speed TGV rail traffic between Paris and Switzerland. Swiss Federal Railways issued an advisory discouraging travel along this route from December 5 to 8. Only one TGV train will operate between France and Switzerland on Thursday.

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Environmental spending and jobs on the rise 

Swiss spending on environmental protection has increased 45% in the last eighteen years, while the number of people employed in the sector has almost doubled. Environmental protection spending rose from CHF8.5 billion ($8.6 billion) in 2000 to CHF12.4 billion in 2018, according to the Federal Statistical Officeexternal link. As a percentage of GDP, it has remained rather stable, fluctuating between 1.9% and 1.7%.

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Julius Bär ordered to repay CHF153 million missing German funds

Swiss bank Julius Bär has been ordered to pay CHF153 million ($155 million) to settle a claim that one of its subsidiaries pilfered money from Germany during the reunification of the country in the 1990s. A Swiss court on Wednesday overturned a previous verdict that Julius Bär should not he held responsible. The Swiss wealth manager has been pursued for damages by a German state department that tracks down assets from the former East Germany.

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Record number of new e-cars on Swiss roads

With 10,329 registrations so far this year, Switzerland and Liechtenstein have more new electric passenger cars than ever before. This is the first time the total hit the five-figure mark. The numbers reflect a 136.6% increase over last year’s fleet of new, completely electric passenger cars. What’s more, now e-cars represent 3.7% of all new cars in Switzerland and the principality next door, reported importer association Auto-Schweiz on Tuesday.

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Switzerland’s dark business with Ukrainian coal

Pro-Russian separatists are financing their war in Ukraine with coal deliveries to the West. Now the role of Swiss companies in Zug and Geneva is being investigated, according to a report in the SonntagsZeitung. Fontus AG describes itself on its website as a “reliable and responsible supplier of high-grade solid fuels”, selling “coal of Russian and Kazakh production”.

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Zurich airport company wins huge Indian deal

Flughafen Zürich AG, the operator of Zurich airport, has been selected to design, develop and operate a new airport near the Indian capital after outbidding local companies. The companyexternal link said in a statement on Fridayexternal link it would develop and operate the new Noida International Airport at Jewar in Uttar Pradesh state under a 40-year concession.

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Skilled worker shortage worsens in Switzerland

The shortage of skilled workers on the Swiss job market has become even more acute this year, according to a survey. Finding suitable engineers, technical workers and fiduciaries is particularly difficult. The skilled worker shortage index(PDF), compiled annually by Adecco Switzerland in collaboration with the University of Zurich, measures the occupations in which the number of vacancies is particularly large compared with the number of job-seekers.

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Import duty on cars, clothes and other products may be scrapped

Import duties on various products including cars, clothes, and household appliances are set to be removed in Switzerland. If parliament approves the plan, the measure will enter into force in 2022. Finance Minister Guy Parmelin announced the plan on Wednesday after what the government described as a very positive consultation process with stakeholders.

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Report: it pays for companies to have apprentices

Firms in Switzerland may benefit annually by over CHF3,000 ($3,000) per apprentice when they train their own apprentices, a report has found. The fourth cost-benefit studyexternal link conducted by the Observatory for Vocational Education and Training of the Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (OBS SFIVETexternal link), published on Tuesdayexternal link, revealed that most companies with apprenticeship programmes found it cheaper to train their own skilled workers than to hire them externally.

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Non-EU foreign worker quotas unchanged for 2020

Switzerland will issue 8,500 work visas to non-EU citizens next year – the same number as in 2019. The Swiss government also confirmed an earlier decision that 3,500 British workers will be welcomed in the event of a no-deal Brexit situation.

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Internet-shunning shoppers are almost extinct

Only 3% of adult internet users buy nothing online, with the elderly most likely to stick to bricks-and-mortar shops, according to a survey. Online comparison service Comparis.ch said on Tuesday that whereas 6% of those aged 56-74 were yet to place an order online, the number of abstainers among 18- to 35-year-olds was less than 1%.

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Lugano Airport gets financial lifeline

Lugano authorities have approved a series of loans to help save Lugano Airport in southern Switzerland, allowing it to operate for at least one more year. The regional airport has struggled since the bankruptcy of Darwin Airline and collapse of Adria Airways in September.

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Swiss bankers fined over 1MDB dealings

Two bankers who worked at Coutts private bank in Zurich were fined by the Swiss authorities for failing to report suspicious transactions linked to the sovereign wealth fund 1MDB scandal, it was reported on Sunday. The Sonntag Zeitung and Le Matin Dimanche newspapers reported on Sunday that two Coutts bankers who had dealt with Jho Low, the Malaysian financier allegedly at the heart of the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal, were fined by the Federal Department of Finance in September.

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The $31 million watch and other Swiss price world records

A CHF640 ($645) bar of chocolate is a sign of either the end of civilisation or a healthy market economy. Whatever your view, Switzerland holds several world records when it comes to expensive goods. “As the hammer came down on $31 million (CHF30.6 million), the audience leapt as one to its feet, erupting in wild cheering and thunderous applause,” the Financial Times wrote on November 11 as a world record was set in Geneva for the highest price of a watch at auction.

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Swiss prosecutors search Vitol and Trafigura offices as part of Car Wash probe

Swiss investigators have executed searches at the Geneva offices of commodity traders Vitol and Trafigura at the request of Brazilian federal prosecutors as part of Brazil’s Lava Jato [Car Wash] corruption probe. In a statementexternal link on Thursday, Brazilian federal prosecutors said Swiss investigators had executed “search and seize warrants” at Geneva addresses linked to Vitol and Trafigura on Wednesday.

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20 years of the Vereina tunnel

On November 19, 1999, after eight years of construction, the Vereina Tunnel opened in eastern Switzerland.Connecting the Landquart – Davos Platz and the Bever – Scuol-Tarasp lines, the tunnel is 19 kilometres long and the journey through takes 18 minutes.In 20 years, it has brought various improvements to locals, tourists, and businesses.However, its construction had initially been opposed by some as it was feared that the tunnel would lead to increased road traffic and a decline in the Romansh language.

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Factory lays off workers amid gloomy manufacturing outlook

Swiss precision machine maker Mikron has laid off 25 workers, citing weak demand for its products from the global car industry. The news reflects pessimistic sentiment from Swiss manufacturers and the wider economy. Mikron announced on Tuesday that it would have to reduce headcount at a plant in southern Switzerland from its present level of 370.

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Switzerland excels at attracting talent, but can do better

For the sixth consecutive year, Switzerland clinched the top spot in the annual global ranking of the Lausanne-based IMD business school. The 2019 edition of the IMD World Talent Ranking ranked Switzerland highly in the three areas assessed. It came first in appeal, second in investment and development and second in readiness. Denmark, Sweden, Austria and Luxembourg rounded out the top five.

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Julius Bär takes CHF99 million hit on ailing Italian unit

Swiss wealth manager Julius Bär has downgraded its expectations for attracting new assets from rich clients and announced a CHF99 million ($100 million) write-down on its troubled Italian subsidiary Kairos. Julius Bär issued the warning on Tuesday, less than three months into the tenure of new CEO Philipp Rickenbacher.

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Things the UN does (that you might not know about)

What did the United Nations ever do for us? At the risk of a bit of cliched riffing on that famous scene in Monty Python’s Life of Brian, this month’s column is going to take a look at things the UN does that you may not know about. And one thing in particular: promoting fair and equitable access to the internet.

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Ageing population threatens Swiss prosperity, study warns

Switzerland must do more to find employment options for older citizens and increase work productivity says the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco). If not, prosperity for all will decline as the population ages. The median age of the Swiss population has risen to 43 compared to 32 in 1970. By 2060 this will rise further to 48-years-old going by current fertility rates.

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‘We’re green enough’ says Swiss central bank 

The Swiss National Bank (SNB) is doing enough to mitigate climate damage with its investment policy, senior directors have stated. Switzerland’s central bank does not have the mandate to impose environmental conditions on the commercial banking sector.

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Additional funds set aside for transalpine rail transport 

The Swiss government has decided to earmark CHF180 million ($182 million) as part of a package to promote the transfer of heavy-goods transport from road to rail. In its bill to parliament, the government foresees an extension of payments to transport companies using freight trains until 2026 and a decrease in so-called track access charges with CHF90 million each.

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Time limit to exchange old banknotes eliminated

Banknotes as old as 1976 can soon be traded in at the national bank following a decision by the federal government to eliminate the 20-year time limit. The Swiss National Bank (SNB) issues a new series of banknotes every 15 to 20 years and removes the old notes from circulation. Six months later, the old notes don’t have a legal tender and therefore can’t be used as a means of payment.

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Telecom operator Sunrise to pay up for failed deal

Following shareholder pushback, Swiss telecom operator Sunrise has cancelled the purchase contract for the cable network operator UPC, officially burying the controversial deal. This is another failed attempt to challenge industry leader Swisscom.

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Cross-border workers entering Switzerland set record in 2019

The number of people from neighbouring countries commuting to Switzerland for work each day reached a record 325,000 this year. The increase was felt especially in cantons Ticino and Geneva. Following a slight drop in 2018, the Swiss job market is once again attracting cross-border workers in historically high numbers. Some 325,291 peopleexternal link entered the country each day in the third quarter of 2019, beating the previous record of 316,491 set in 2017.

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No Swiss citizenship for WEF founder Schwab, reports say

World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab will not be receiving honorary Swiss citizenship, despite the idea having being mooted earlier this year. Such an honorary conferral of the passport has no basis in Swiss law, the Federal Justice Office announced on Tuesday, after it was contacted by the daily Südostschweiz newspaper.

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Billionaires’ club shrinks as economy wobbles

The world lost 57 billionaires last year as economic woes and the unexpected strengthening of the US dollar wiped $388 billion (CHF386 billion) from their combined wealth. Switzerland had three fewer billionaires; the 33 who remain saw their bank accounts shrink by $16 billion.

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Using lake water to help reduce Switzerland’s carbon footprint

Swiss lakes offer huge potential as renewable energy sources that can be used to cool and heat buildings. Geneva is expanding a pioneering thermal exchange project to help meet its climate goals, while other regions are taking the plunge. After transport, the second and third biggest sources of national greenhouse gas emissions are Swiss industry (20% of total in 2017) and households (18%).

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UBS: “Negative interest rates harm Swiss economy”

A survey of Swiss companies commissioned by UBS bank concludes that negative interest rates are harming the wider economy. Switzerland’s largest bank, UBS, asked 2,500 companies about the impact of negative interest rates. “Nearly two-thirds of respondents said that the cost…for the economy outweighed their benefits overall,” UBS said in a press releaseexternal link on Thursday.

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Swiss train problems being solved, says manufacturer

Bombardier says it expects to deliver all 62 double-decker express trains ordered by Swiss Federal Railways by summer 2021. Deliveries should have been made as early as 2013 but have been fraught with technical problems. The trains were ordered in 2010 for a total of CHF 1.9 billion ($1.9 billion), making it the largest contract in the history of rail transport.

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Why is solar power struggling to take off in Switzerland?

Solar energy is the main source of renewable energy in Switzerland, after hydroelectric power. But its potential is far from being exploited, according to industry experts. In 1982 Switzerland became the first country in Europe to connect a photovoltaic plant to the electricity network. Ten years later it inaugurated what at the time was the continent’s largest solar power station.

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Nestlé accused of sourcing palm oil linked to forest fires in Indonesia

The environmental group Greenpeace claims that the Swiss food giant procured palm oil from suppliers linked to around 9,700 fire hotspots in Indonesia this year. A Greenpeace reportexternal link released on Monday examines the supply chain of four major food companies – Nestlé, Unilever, Procter & Gamble and Mondelēz – and compares them to palm oil suppliers that are under investigation for starting illegal fires.

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‘Farinet’ local currency to be withdrawn from circulation

The Farinet – a local currency introduced in canton Valais in 2017 – is to be withdrawn from circulation at the end of 2019 after failing to stimulate the regional economy as hoped. Farinet banknotes were introduced in Valais in western Switzerland in spring 2017. But on Tuesday the association behind the currency announced it planned to withdraw it at the end of this year.

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Switzerland’s growth hampered by trade tensions, economic slowdown

Trade tensions coupled with a slowdown in Europe are likely to take a toll on the Swiss economy over the next two years, the OECD forecasts. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has revised its growth forecasts downwards for Switzerland. It also recommended Switzerland raise its retirement age.

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Why Nestlé won’t meet its zero-deforestation pledge

When it came under fire from environmental groups over its harvesting of palm oil, Swiss food giant Nestlé committed to eliminating deforestation from its supply chain by next year. But it will take another three years to come close to accomplishing that goal.

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Switzerland calls time on phone booths

The last telephone box in French-speaking Switzerland, on the shores of Lake Geneva, was dismantled on Thursday. Swisscom will remove the one in the country – in Baden, northern Switzerland – on November 28. An era in the history of Swiss telecommunications is thus coming to an end, an era that witnessed millions of declarations of love, tears and banal conversations in the little cabins that once stood on almost every street corner.

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Campaign targets online gambling addicts

An awareness campaign has been launched to help addicted online gamblers in Switzerland cope with their compulsive behaviour. An independent foundation said it published a special digital programme, Gambling without Addiction, with the authorities in most cantons of German-speaking Switzerland.

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General Electric limits job cuts in Switzerland

The American industrial conglomerate General Electric has announced a reduction in the number of planned layoffs at its subsidiaries in Switzerland. The company said a maximum of 200 people would lose their jobs at two of its sites west of Zurich. In June it had announced a figure of some 450.

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Real wages set to rise in Switzerland for first time in three years

Employees in Switzerland are expected to receive above-inflation pay rises for the first time since 2016, according to a survey of companies. On average, workers are forecast to take home a 1.1% pay hike – a rise of 0.9% when taking inflation into account. These are the findings of research portal Lohntendenzen.ch, as reported by the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper.

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How pension payments are making Swiss housing unaffordable

Under pressure to invest, Swiss pension funds are ploughing money into real estate, considered a safe and profitable option. As this drives up housing prices, however, desperate residents are fighting back through direct democracy. Building land in central Switzerland is scarce, and apartments and houses expensive, especially in cities.

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Five things to come out of Zuckerberg’s Libra testimony

Mark Zuckerberg testified in front of the US Congress on Wednesday about his company’s plans to launch a new, global digital currency. During a marathon hearing, the Facebook chief executive and founder attempted to change the narrative surrounding Project Libra. The proposed currency has been beset by criticism from regulators and politicians, while support from corporate partners has dwindled.

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Bitcoin billionaire twins to address St Moritz crypto event

Cameron and Tyler Winkelvoss, who made a fortune out of bitcoin, are to deliver a keynote speech at next year’s Crypto Finance Conference in St Moritz. The annual gathering of cryptocurrency entrepreneurs and investors has become a fixture event, running just before the World Economic Forum’s flagship Davos summit.

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Nestlé remains among top plastic polluters in the world

The Swiss food giant has been placed second behind Coca-Cola in an audit of plastic waste by a coalition of environmental organisations. The results of the analysis, released on Wednesday by the Break Free From Plasticexternal link movement, prompted the authors to single out the corporations that finished in the top three for the second year in a row – Coca-Cola, Nestlé and PepsiCo – for having offered “mostly false solutions to the plastics crisis.”

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Japan Tobacco staff protest over job cuts

Almost 100 Japan Tobacco International (JTI) staff protested outside their Geneva headquarters on Tuesday against job cuts. Around a quarter of the Geneva workforce are affected by major restructuring plans. Last month the multinational firm behind cigarette brands like Winston, Camel and Benson & Hedges confirmed restructuring plans and job cuts. Some 268 posts out of 1,100 are due to be cut at the Geneva headquarters.

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Syngenta commits $2 billion to tackle climate change

The Swiss-based agricultural firm has set aside $2 billion (around CHF1.97 billion) over five years to reduce emissions from agricultural practices. The company, which has come under fire for profiting from selling hazardous pesticides abroad, also announced on Tuesday that it will be reducing its carbon footprint by 50% by 2030.

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Swiss remain the richest in the world

The Swiss have pulled away from the pack when it comes to assets per adult, remaining on average the wealthiest citizens in the world. In concrete terms, by mid-2019 assets per adult in Switzerland stood at $564,650 (CHF555,000), an increase of $17,790 over the previous year, according to the tenth Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report, published on Monday.

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Swiss railways see more demand for train trips abroad

Travellers in Switzerland are increasingly taking to the rails for trips abroad, with the Swiss Federal Railways reporting a 10% increase in demand for international journeys and 25% more demand for trips by night train. According to a report in the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper, demand for night train journeys especially increased on stretches between Switzerland and the German cities of Berlin and Hamburg, while overall demand for international trips rose most on routes to France.

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Technology winning battle against banknote forgers

Swiss banknotes are far more resistant to counterfeiters than in previous years, dramatically reducing the number of fake copies, say federal police. By contrast, far more counterfeit coins were seized last year, probably as a result of better detection methods. In 2018, a record low of 1,200 fake banknotes were discovered by police.

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5G tests Switzerland’s limits on cybersecurity

As more governments mull the risks of working with foreign vendors of 5G networks, eyes are on Switzerland as one of the technology’s early adopters. Will the Swiss take a heavier hand in restricting foreign providers like Huawei in the 5G supply chain or let the market decide? In a grim but not-so-far-fetched scenarioexternal link, a hacker attacks a 5G antenna, sending malicious signals to millions of connected devices.

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Credit Suisse to charge wealthy clients negative interest rates

Credit Suisse has joined the likes of UBS and Post Finance in charging rich clients to park their wealth in its vaults. It will pass on the cost of the central bank’s negative interest rates to both private individuals and corporate accounts above certain thresholds. From November 15, corporate clients will be charged -0.85% interest on cash holdings above CHF10 million ($10 million), Credit Suisse confirmed on Friday.

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Commodities trader Gunvor held criminally liable for corruption

The Geneva-based trading company Gunvor has been ordered to pay almost CHF94 million ($94.6 million), including a fine of CHF4 million over bribery in Africa. The commodities trader failed to prevent its employees and agents from bribing public officials between 2008 and 2011 in order to gain access to the petroleum markets in the Republic of Congo and Ivory Coast, the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) said in a statement on Thursday.

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Spying scandal weighs on Tidjane Thiam’s tenure at Credit Suisse

When Tidjane Thiam arrived at the helm of Credit Suisse in the summer of 2015, he was a hero. Plucked from the same role at UK insurer Prudential, where he had doubled the share price in six years, he had big plans to shrink the Swiss group’s investment bank, slash costs, raise fresh capital and expand in Asia.

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Unions urge probe on asbestos-linked deaths

Labour unions are demanding a probe of companies’ pre-1990 working conditions in the southern Swiss canton of Ticino, in connection with recent asbestos-linked deaths. They are targeting particularly Swiss Federal Railways and the Swiss accident insurance fund SUVA.

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Cashflow crisis looms over UN in Geneva

The United Nations is facing a serious cashflow crisis, as 63 states – including its largest contributor, the United States – have not paid their annual dues. In Geneva, officials at the UN’s European headquarters (UNOG) are considering ways to cut costs, while the host nation looks on anxiously.

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State railway company beset with fresh problems 

All the Swiss Federal Railways’ new Bombardier double-decker trains will have to go in for repairs for certain parts to be replaced, it has emerged. The news of the latest technical problems was broken by Swiss public television SRF, citing internal documents. At present, 12 out of the 59 Bombardier trains are in operation on a line between Chur (in southeastern Switzerland) and Basel in the northwestern part of the country.

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Floating solar panels unveiled in Swiss Alps

A solar panel project which could power over 6,000 households has been launched in a mountain lake in southwestern Switzerland. The Romande Energie company unveiled the first part of its floating solar project in Bourg-Saint-Pierre on Wednesday after six years of exploratory work. The installation consists of 2,240 square metres of solar panels sitting on a 36-part aluminium and polyethylene frame anchored to the bed of the mountain lake.

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EU removes Switzerland from tax haven lists 

Switzerland has acknowledged the fact that European Union will remove the country from its grey list for tax havens following a reform of the corporate tax system. “Switzerland meets and implements international tax standards. The European Union has acknowledged this…” said a statement, released by the State Secretariat for International Finance (SIF), on Thursday.

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Geneva commuters fall out of love with cars

Commuters in the Geneva region are becoming increasingly disillusioned with private cars and are embracing “multimodal” forms of transport, a survey has found. An in-depth survey of commuter behaviour in the Greater Geneva region – covering canton Geneva, the Nyon region in neighbouring canton Vaud, and France – has revealed an increasingly negative attitude towards driving.

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New Swiss 100-franc banknote blocks certain ATMs

The new CHF100 ($100) banknote, which went into circulation last month, has blocked bank ATMs in half a dozen German-speaking Swiss cantons. Bank machines belonging to the PostFinance bank do not seem to like the new blue CHF100 note, which was officially launched on September 12.

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Swiss are skilled but not so dynamic, finds ranking

Switzerland has slipped down a slot in the annual Global Competitiveness Index from the World Economic Forum (WEF). Having come in fourth in 2018, Switzerland now follows Singapore, the United States, Hong Kong and the Netherlands. The index covers 141 countries. The world economy is not ready for a major slowdown, warns WEF.

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Swiss firms give over CHF5 million a year to parties and candidates

Switzerland’s biggest firms – mainly banks, pharmaceutical firms and insurance companies – donate at least CHF5 million ($5 million) a year to political parties and candidates, a survey has revealed. The poll of 140 companies by Swiss public radio RTS, published on Tuesday, found that one in five firms donate regularly to political parties or politicians, to the tune of CHF5 million annually.

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Switzerland’s top UN diplomat in New York

When Antonio Guterres was elected United Nations Secretary General in 2016, some criticized the decision because they thought a woman should finally be at the helm of the international organisation. To his credit, Guterres has filled many of the UN’s top posts with women including Mirjana Spoljaric – Switzerland’s top ranking UN diplomat in New York.

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Switzerland shares details of 3.1 million bank accounts held by foreigners

In its second-ever data sharing exercise as part of a global automatic exchange of information (AEOI) treaty, Switzerland shared financial account information with 63 partner countries. On Monday, the Swiss Federal Tax Authority revealed that it had provided details of around 3.1 million bank accounts held by foreigners to the countries of their origin.

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‘A Swiss should run Credit Suisse’ ex-CS head tells newspaper

In an interview with the newspaper NZZ am Sonntag, former Credit Suisse CEO Oswald Grübel has criticized the large Swiss bank for its handling of the current crisis. By maintaining that CEO Tidjane Thiam was unaware of the spying affair, the bank is harming the Swiss financial sector, Grübel said in an interview published on Sunday.

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Hackers attack Swiss consumer protection agency

Hackers successfully attacked the website of the Swiss Consumer Protection Foundation last month, placing links to fake stores within the agency’s online shopping pages. The hack was detected within two hours and the malicious links were removed, said the foundation, which regularly warns consumers about online fraud.

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EU to remove Switzerland from tax haven lists

European Union finance ministers are set to remove Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) from the bloc’s lists of countries deemed to act as tax havens, an EU document said. On October 10 they are expected to remove Switzerland from the grey list that includes countries that have committed to change their tax rules to make them compliant with EU standards.

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Fête des Vignerons seeks millions to fill financial hole

The organisers of the Fête des Vignerons – a traditional winegrowers’ festival in the Swiss lakeside town of Vevey – is scrambling to cover its multi-million-franc deficit for 2019. The local winegrowers’ guild behind the once-in-a-generation private festival, which started in the 17th century, reported a CHF15 million ($14.9 million) loss for the 2019 edition on Tuesday.

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Credit Suisse braced for ‘spygate’ reputational fallout

The usually discrete world of Swiss private banking has been shaken by spying revelations at Credit Suisse, the country’s second largest wealth manager. Chairman Urs Rohner has acknowledged that the sordid affair has damaged the reputation of the bank and the Swiss financial centre.

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Credit Suisse COO resigns over spying scandal

Credit Suisse Group Chief Operating Officer Pierre-Olivier Bouee has resigned following a spying scandal that has rocked Switzerland’s financial circles and which the lender said caused severe reputational damage to the bank. Bouee, a long-time associate of Chief Executive Officer Tidjane Thiam, assumed responsibility for the surveillance of former Credit Suisse executive Iqbal Khan along with the bank’s head of security.

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Swiss accident insurer to cut 170 jobs

Between 2021 and 2027, the Swiss National Accident Insurance Fund (SUVA)external link plans to cut about 20% of its jobs in the claims management department. Currently, that department has more than 800 jobs, including agency clerks, district physicians, insurance physicians at the head office and lawyers for objections and court cases.

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Libra stablecoin project ‘no threat’ to financial system

Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency poses no threat to central banks or to financial law and order, the head of the Geneva-based Libra Association tells swissinfo.ch. Many regulators, politicians and central banks have reacted with alarm to the proposed new digital payments system.

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Chasing wealth managers is a risky business

Zurich is a sober and orderly city, so a fierce altercation near the Swiss National Bankexternal link between a banker to the world’s billionaires and a private detective who was trailing him is worthy of John Le Carré. It is all the more lurid that Credit Suisse ordered surveillance of Iqbal Khan after he left abruptly for its rival UBS.

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US stamps policy on the Universal Postal Union

I think it’s fair to say many people may not have heard of the Universal Postal Union (UPU). Its unassuming headquarters sits peacefully in a leafy suburb of Bern. It is the only United Nations agency to grace Switzerland’s capital with a presence. In fact, the UPU is older than the UN itself. Founded in 1874, its mandate is to regulate the booming new (in the 19th century) international communication of letters and parcels.

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Media questions EFTA deal timing

“Playing with fire,” is the verdict of the Swiss press, in reaction to the free trade deal largely agreed between EFTA countries – among them Switzerland – and the Mercosur bloc, that includes Brazil. Questions have been raised over the timing of the agreement.

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Swiss post rolls out more secure version of e-voting platform

The publicly-owned company Swiss Post, which had abandoned its electronic voting system in July over security concerns, has developed a new version. “We have already proposed a solution” to cantons, said general manager Roberto Cirillo in an interview published by the La Liberté newspaper on Friday.

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Swiss food-waste pioneer wins CHF200,000 prize

This year’s CHF200,000 ($204,000) J.E. Brandenberger Foundation prize has been awarded to Yvonne Kurzmeyer, founder of the charity organisation Schweizer Tafel. The organisation redistributes over 4,000 tonnes of food a year to underprivileged groups in Switzerland.

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Big firms required to publish gender pay gap in 2021

Large companies in Switzerland will have to analyse wages of men and women starting in 2020 and make the audited results available to staff in 2021. The Federal Council agreed on Wednesday that the equal pay revision to the Gender Equality Act, passed by parliament in December 2018, will come into force on July 1, 2020.

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Nine out of ten Swiss are satisfied with their job

The vast majority of Swiss people enjoy going to work. In a survey by consultants EY, 87% said they were satisfied or very satisfied with their job. Although the figure has barely changed since last year, differences between sectors persist. In the construction industry and in mechanical and systems engineering, for example, satisfaction has increased significantly.

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Swiss groundwater quality threatened by pollution

Pollution from agriculture, former industrial sites and landfills is threatening Switzerland’s groundwater reserves, according to a detailed study of water quality. The water quality study from the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), released on Thursday, said groundwater faces the greatest pressures in areas of high farming activity.

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Swiss pharma executive gets US sanction for insider trading  

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has fined Lorenz Erne, a former senior executive at Swiss pharmaceutical firm Roche, for insider trading and ordered him to pay back the ill-gotten profits. Erne accepted the accusations and agreed to the terms of a settlement with the SEC, according to an SEC document published on Thursday. He has to pay back $159,228 (CHF156,000) plus a fine of $79,614 within 14 days to the SEC “for transfer to the general fund of the United States Treasury”.

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Swiss financial sector shines in international survey 

Switzerland’s financial centre has a positive reputation abroad, despite a string of scandals in 2018, according to a 19-nation survey conducted by Presence Suisse. The reputation and quality of Swiss banks were rated as “good” to “very good” by most respondents in the international poll of 12,767 people. The ethics and responsibility of the Swiss banking sector are also well regarded.

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Survey shows growing political acceptance for a fuel tax

Analysis of survey questions filled out by Swiss politicians in 2015 and 2019 shows a marked turnaround in attitudes towards the introduction of a carbon tax on fuel. The Smartvote online platform asks politicians various attitudinal questions in an effort to help voters make up their minds in the lead up to national elections.

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Novartis rejects suspected data manipulation in US

Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis has dismissed criticism that it allegedly withheld information about animal testing data inaccuracies to United States authorities for a human gene therapy. Novartis said its subsidiary in California began investigating the alleged data manipulation for its gene therapy Zolgensma as soon as it learned about it.

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Chinese-owned Swissmetal sold to Swiss investors

The cash-strapped Baoshida Swissmetal company has been taken over by a group of Swiss investors six years after it was sold to a Chinese group. The newly-founded Swissmetal Industries, backed by two private investors, said it had acquired the firm, which employs about 160 people at two factories in the small towns of Dornach and Reconvilier.

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Pressure returns on Swiss franc amid global uncertainty

One knock-on effect of the escalating trade war between the United States and China is that the Swiss franc is becoming more attractive for investors – putting pressure on the Swiss National Bank (SNB) to come to the defence of the safe haven currency. For much of July a euro bought at least CHF1.10.

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US tourists flocking to Switzerland amid economic boom  

American visitors to Switzerland have increased by over 40% in five years and represent a major growth motor for the tourism industry, annual statistics show. Chinese and Indian tourists are often seen as the future of Swiss tourism, the SonntagsZeitung and Le Matin Dimanche newspapers reported at the weekend. However, they say, “North America is the real growth engine when it comes to overseas visitors”.

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Glencore suffers $350m hit as cobalt prices decline

Glencore has taken a $350 million hit because of falling cobalt prices as the problems facing its African copper business continue to pile up. The Switzerland-based miner and commodity trader has been grappling with a string of issues in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where it operates two copper mines, and in Zambia, where it owns another asset.

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Switzerland’s first integrated crypto asset exchange launched

Smart Valor, the country’s first integrated cryptocurrency exchange offering custody, trading and brokerage, has gone live with nine crypto-fiat trading pairs. The assets on Zug-based platform, that was launched in 2017 as part of the Thomson Reuters Incubator, includes crypto currencies and security tokens.

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Switzerland assists Japanese probe into Carlos Ghosn 

Canton Zurich’s public prosecutor is assisting the Japanese authorities in an inquiry related to bank accounts associated with Carlos Ghosn, the former leading auto executive. Tokyo prosecutors sent a request for legal assistance to Switzerland in January, a spokesperson for the country’s Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) told swissinfo.ch.

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Expat Swiss Celebrated at Historic Winegrower’s Festival

Colours of the Swiss flag

The expatriate Swiss community has been attending the once-in-a-lifetime Fête des Vignerons, currently taking place on the shores of Lake Geneva. A delegation of Swiss citizens living across the world, including leading members of the Organisation of the Swiss Abroadexternal link (OSA), gathered in Vevey to participate in the event on Thursday.

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Swiss Railway Tracks Buckle under the Heat

The hottest day of the year in Switzerland caused a headache for the Swiss Federal Railways. Track damage occurred on Wednesday in the Zurich Oberland, canton Aargau near Brugg and in the Geneva area. Railways spokesman Raffael Hirt confirmed that lines had been interrupted in Zurich between Pfäffikon and Wetzikon and in Aargau between Wildegg and Brugg.

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Switzerland has the Highest Underemployment Rate in Europe

Swiss Women Work Time

2018, 7% of Switzerland’s workforce claimed they would like to work more. Women are the most affected. According to the Federal Statistical Office (FSO) figures publsihed on Tuesday, Switzerland’s labour pool has 830,000 people. This includes 356,000 underemployed individuals, 231,000 unemployed and 243,000 people who are looking for work but not available to start immediately.

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Swiss tourist chief warns against Europe-only strategy

The director of Switzerland’s tourism marketing company has dismissed criticism that the country is overrun by Asian tourists. Martin Nydegger said concerns by the local population about too many tourists should be taken seriously. But the perception of overtourism was mistaken and potentially damaging.

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Switzerland could lose billions in global corporate tax reform push

Switzerland stands to lose up to CHF10 billion ($10.2 billion) as a consequence of attempts by other countries to change how multinationals are taxed. Countries belonging to the G20 and OECD are pushing for changes in corporate taxation rules to capture a larger share of taxes of multinationals based in tax-friendly destinations like Switzerland.

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US ratifies double-taxation deal with Switzerland

The United States Senate on Wednesday ratified a double-taxation agreement (DTA) with Switzerland, ending years of stalemate. The agreement, which required two-thirds of votes, was accepted by a large majority, according to the US Senate website.

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Survey: one in ten Swiss jobs is ‘low paid’

Around 320,000 jobs in Switzerland are considered low paid, earning a gross monthly salary of under CHF4,335 ($4,400), according to the most recent nationwide statistics. In 2016, 12% of Swiss workers earned such a low monthly salary, the Federal Statistical Office (OFS) reported on Monday.

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Swiss fuel-related CO2 emissions remained stable in 2019

Despite an increase in the use of biofuels and electric vehicles, fuel-related carbon dioxide emissions remained unchanged in 2018 in the country. The stagnation was due to the increase in road traffic. Owing to a rise in the average number of kilometres Swiss residents travelled last year, as well as growth in higher-emissions passenger vehicles – mainly four-wheel drives – fuel-related CO2 emissions in 2017 were still 3.3% above their 1990 level, the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) reported on Tuesday.

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Old Swiss trains get chance at new life online

The Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) is selling its old locomotives on the Internet. Control cars, rails, switches and a firefighting train with a CHF1 million ($1 million) price tag are among the vintage vehicles on sale. You will be hard pressed to find anything for less than CHF25,000 on SBBresale.ch, according to the Sunday editions of the German-language Blick newspaper and French-language Le Matin.

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Competition watchdog fines car leasing companies for collusion

The Swiss competition commission (COMCO) has fined eight car leasing firms a total of CHF30 million ($30.4 million) for having swapped information on rates. The fines were announced on Thursday and come after some years of regular and systematic information exchanges between the companies on interest rates, COMCO announced.

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Half a million Swiss jobs vacancies predicted in 10 years

Retiring baby-boomers and a shifting job market could mean a shortfall of up to 500,000 workers in Switzerland over the next decade, UBS forecasts. The bank proposes plugging the hole not only by immigration, but also by boosting more old and female workers. Basing its projections on long-term employment statistics, the bank says that the number of jobs to be filled could be anywhere between 300,000 and 500,000 over the next decade.

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Some 60 percent of all Swiss banknotes are hoarded, study finds

The amount of Swiss CHF1,000 notes that are hoarded rather than being used in the economy for payments could be as high as 87%, a study by the Swiss National Bank (SNB) has shown. The report, “Demand for Swiss banknotes: some new evidence”, estimates the volume of Swiss banknotes being stashed – rather than spent or invested – over the period 1950-2017.

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The rich get poorer for the first time since 2011

After seven years of growth, both the number of high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) around the world and their total wealth declined in 2018, according to the latest World Wealth Report by consultants Capgemini. This trend was also seen in Switzerland.

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TGV trains run again between Geneva and France

The international TGV rail link between Geneva and France, which had been affected by the hot weather, has been repaired. Trains have been running since 5am on Sunday. Hot weather had buckled the tracks at La Plaine in canton Geneva, requiring repair work on Saturday, the Swiss Federal Railways said on Sunday.

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Planned pension reform sees women working a year longer

The Swiss government plans to incrementally increase the retirement age of women to 65 while offering incentives for all people to work longer. The CHF2.8 billion ($2.84 billion) savings measures would be accompanied by a sales tax hike and extra pension payments for hardship cases.

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Vitol overtakes Glencore as biggest company in Switzerland

Commodity trader Vitol has taken the top spot in the ranking of the largest companies in Switzerland by total turnover, relegating Zug-based Glencore to second place. According to the rankingexternal link published in the Handelszeitung on Thursday, in 2018 Vitol boasted growth of 26.8% for a total turnover of CHF226 billion ($231 billion) compared to Glencore’s CHF215 billion.

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Swiss government proposes overhaul of money-laundering laws 

The Swiss government wants to revamp the laws against money laundering so that lawyers, notaries and other advisors are required to comply with due diligence obligations.  The Federal Council (executive body) proposed on Wednesday a set of legal amendments to meet international standards in the fight against money laundering and terrorism financing. 

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Big pay gaps remain in Switzerland

Large wage gaps continue by gender and within Switzerland’s largest 26 firms, according to two new surveys. According to the Federal Office for Statistics, the median gross salary of male full-time employees in Switzerland stood at CHF85,200 ($87,276) last year, while for full-time female employees it was CHF71,500 – a 19% pay gap.

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Swiss pensioners most likely age group to be overweight

Swiss seniors are much more likely to be overweight that other age categories, new statistics from the Federal Office for Public Health (FOPH) show. Some 53% of over-65-year-olds have a body mass index judged to be too high (over 25 on the BMI scale), according to the statistics released on Tuesday by the FOPH.

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Federal fat cats see bonuses fall  

The salaries of top managers at Swiss government-affiliated companies shrank last year due to smaller bonuses, according to a federal report published on Friday. Top state earner, Andreas Meyer, head of Swiss Federal Railways, saw his earnings fall below CHF1 million for the first time: down to CHF987,442 ($1 million) from CHF1,007,000 in 2017, the report found.

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Swiss poised to retaliate against EU stock market access

The Swiss finance ministry has reaffirmed that it is ready to ban stock exchanges in the European Union from trading Swiss shares – in a worsening row with Brussels over the future of bilateral relations. “In the event of stock market equivalence not being extended, the finance ministry will activate this protective measure. [….] Consequently, trading venues in the EU would lose recognition,” the ministry said on Monday.

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Smartphone shopping boosts online trade

Online shopping accounts for an ever bigger slice of the Swiss retail market as shopping via smartphone also becomes more popular with consumers, says a new report. Last year, Swiss consumers placed online orders worth a total of almost CHF 10 billion ($10 billion), according to the “E-Commerce Report 2019” published on Thursday. This represents an increase of 10 percent compared with the previous year.

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Millionaires in Switzerland still on the rise

Switzerland is home to the fourth-largest number of dollar millionaire households, according to a report by the Boston Consultancy Group (BCG). Worldwide, the number of such millionaires continues to rise. There are now some 500,000 millionaire households in Switzerland, BCG said, putting the Swiss in fourth place behind the US (around 15 million), China (1.3 million), and Japan (1.1 million).

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A third of young Swiss experience financial hardship

Around 30% of young adults in Switzerland have faced financial difficulties, according to data from the Young Adult Survey Switzerland (YASS). The survey, which questions some 70,000 19-year-olds around the country every four years, aims to gain an “empiric and interdisciplinary insight” into the “educational biographies, living conditions and social and political orientations” of young Swiss adults.

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General Electric to slash 450 more Swiss jobs

United States engineering giant General Electric has revealed it will cut a further 450 jobs at two of its Swiss sites. Since 2016, the company has already shed some 2,000 workers. The company, which generated profits of $954 million (CHF952 million) last year, blamed the latest cuts on “financially challenging conditions”. But its GE Power division reported an operating loss of nearly $1 billion globally.

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Swiss gold refinery turns back on artisanal miners

Swiss gold refinery Metalor Technologies has announced it will no longer deal with artisanal mining operations. The company cites the increasing cost of ensuring that gold is being produced by small mines in compliance with human rights and environmental standards. Metalor has come under repeated fire for doing business with gold mines in South America that care neither for their workers or surrounding habitat.

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Raiffeisen bank announces CHF1 million executive pay cap

Switzerland’s third largest bank will limit the annual remuneration of top management to CHF1 million (around $1million) from July 1. The announcement was made at the bank’s general meeting on Saturday in Crans-Montana. CEO Heinz Huber’s compensation has already been adjusted when he took up his duties in January.

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Saab withdraws from Swiss fighter jet test flights

Saab’s Gripen E fighter jet will not participate in tests this month in Switzerland, the Swedish company said on Thursday. This follows a recommendation by the Swiss defence procurement agency (armasuisse). “The Gripen E development plan does not match the Swiss plan to perform flight tests with aircraft that are operationally ready in 2019,” Saab said in a statement.

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Swiss government predicts moderate economic growth in 2019

The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) is expecting the Swiss economy to grow by +1.2% in 2019, it said on Thursday. It revised its economic forecast upwards slightly from +1.1% in March, following 0.6% growth in the first quarter thanks to vigorous domestic demand.

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Swiss regulator fines banks over improper forex trading

The Swiss Competition Commission (COMCO) has fined five international banks for their involvement in the formation of cartels that manipulated the foreign exchange market. COMCO fined Barclays, Citigroup, JPMorgan, the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and the MUFG Bank a total of CHF90 million ($90.6 million) for “anti-competitive arrangements between banks in foreign exchange spot trading”.

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Plastic bag use continues to drop 

Consumption of single-use plastic bags in some 30 Swiss food retailers has dropped 86% since they introduced a small charge in 2016. The charge of CHF0.05 (an American nickel) per bag was introduced voluntarily under a sectoral agreement in response to a parliamentary move that would have banned single-use plastic bags.

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Swiss Post processes 800,000 parcels per day

The number of packages processed by the Swiss Post office’s three parcel centres has been rising steadily since they opened 20 years ago. During that time, the centres in Härkingen, Daillens and Frauenfeld have handled more than 3.1 billion packages.

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Fewer Swiss farms and dairy cows, more egg-layers and goats

Last year 768 farmers in Switzerland called it quits, while others increased their livestock numbers and production of organic food. Figures released this week by the Swiss Federal Statistical Officeexternal link revealed a 1.5% drop in the number of farms, bringing the total down to 50,852. However, the number of certified organic farms rose by about 400 to 7,032.

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Switzerland a top place for skilled foreign workers and students

Switzerland is one of the most attractive locations for highly qualified foreign workers, according to a new study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). In a ranking of 35 countries presented on Wednesday, Switzerland comes third behind Australia and Sweden as an attractive destination for skilled workers with a Masters degree or doctorate.

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Switzerland ranked world’s fourth most competitive economy

Switzerland is Europe’s most competitive nation, coming fourth in the annual global ranking of the Lausanne-based IMD business school. The small Alpine nation climbed from fifth to fourth place in the 63-country competitiveness ranking. It was helped by economic growth, the stability of the Swiss franc and high-quality infrastructure, IMD said on Tuesday.

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Ranking finds Switzerland lagging on wind power

In a comparison of European solar and wind power generation, Switzerland ranks near the bottom. Per year and inhabitant, Switzerland produces 250 kilowatt hours of solar (236kWh) and wind (14kWh) power – the amount needed to power a dishwasher, roughly. This puts Switzerland in 25th place when compared with the 28 European Union nations, according to a study published by the Swiss Energy Foundation (SES) on Wednesday.

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Swiss Trains Test Free Mobile Internet Access

Swiss Trains Mobile Internet Access

The Swiss Federal Railways has started testing free mobile internet based on 3G/4G coverage on the main train routes. However, it does not cover all Swiss operators. The state-owned company has started testing the service on 44 Intercity trains between Zurich and Geneva, St Gallen and Lausanne, and from Basel to Biel, the federal railways announced on Tuesday in a statementexternal link.

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Swiss authorities intervene to halt exports of nuclear weapons material

Federal authorities are stepping up efforts to prevent the sale of Swiss machinery that could be used to develop nuclear weapons. The latest interventions concern direct sales to the US and France. According to reports by the German-language newspaper NZZ am Sonntag, the federal export group halted the export of suspicious machinery to the US two times last year.

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Swiss pay more for magazines and clothes than other countries

Swiss consumers pay a “high price island” premium of up to 245% for magazines and clothing compared to prices being charged for the same goods in neighbouring countries. A consumer group study found the price differential to be higher in Italy and France than in Germany. For many people living in Switzerland the findings of the Swiss Alliance of Consumer Associations, together with watchdogs in the French and Italian-speaking regions of the country, will come as no surprise. In fact, they confirm the findings of similar studies going back to 2012.

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Image of Swiss banks improves among public

The image of Swiss banks has returned for the first time to pre-financial crisis levels, according to a survey by the Swiss Bankers Association (SBA). Cybercrime remains a concern, however. “The banks’ positive image is the result of a combination of their commercial success and social responsibility, and the respondents’ positive experiences with them in everyday life,” the SBA said in a statement on Wednesday.

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OECD lowers Swiss growth forecasts for 2019-2020 

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has revised its growth forecasts for Switzerland downwards for the next two years due to a global economic slowdown. After a strong 2018 (+2.5%), gross domestic product (GDP) growth should slow in 2019 (+1%), the OECD said on Tuesday. This compares to its earlier forecast last November of +1.6%.

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UBS to implement zero interest rate on savings accounts

As of June 1, Switzerland’s largest bank will stop paying interest on adult savings accounts. Funds deposited in UBS savings accounts currently earn a rate of 0.01%, just like at Credit Suisse, the other major Swiss bank. Almost all other Swiss banks pay a small interest on saving accounts with the average amounting to 0.07%.

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Women represented on all top Swiss company boards

For the first time, all of Switzerland’s top 20 companies have at least one woman in the boardroom. The finding by consultancy firm Russell Reynolds shows the slow but steady progress towards gender equality in the management of Swiss firms.

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Swiss give clear ‘yes’ to corporate tax reform

Swiss voters largely accepted on Sunday a reform of the corporate tax system that will scrap preferential treatment for multinational firms. The result also means a financial boost for the country’s ailing pension system. Two years after voters rejected a similar idea to overhaul corporate tax rules, the issue – this time linked controversially to pensions – received a clear thumbs-up.

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Switzerland blacklisted by ILO

Employees who are active in trade unions are not sufficiently protected from being sacked in Switzerland, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO). The Geneva-based body has added Switzerland to a blacklist – just before a centenary conference in the Swiss city. The list comprises 40 countries that violate ILO conventions. Together with Greece and Belarus, Switzerland is the only European country to feature.

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Government performs fighter jet U-turn

The Federal Council has changed its approach to buying new combat aircraft and anti-aircraft missiles. Swiss voters will now be able to have a say only on the fighter jets, on which the government wants to spend no more than CHF6 billion ($5.95 billion). It has asked the defence ministry to present a planning decision no later than the beginning of September.

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Older unemployed to get more help from government

The government has announced measures to help Swiss-based workers have better access to the job market. Plans to help older people out of a job are also outlined. The measures, outlined on Wednesday by interior minister Alain Berset and justice minister Karin Keller-Sutter, are part of efforts to adapt to an ageing workforce and to new rules forcing employers to give priority to Swiss-based workers.

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Warmer weather sparks huge hike in Swiss e-bike sales

Unusually warm and dry weather conditions have been credited with boosting bicycle sales last year – with a greater proportion of cyclists opting to ease muscle strain with the assistance of e-bikes in Switzerland’s mountainous terrain. On Tuesday, the cycling enthusiasts group dynaMot added more detail to figures put out by the Swiss Bicycle Suppliers Association in March.

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Up to 100 Nestlé jobs in Basel at risk

Nestle is planning to restructure its operations in the Swiss city of Basel. Up to 100 jobs are threatened by cuts or moving production abroad. Some 177 people are employed at Nestlé’s Basel plant, 100 of which could be under threat over the next 18 months, the Swiss food giant announced on Thursday.

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Geneva has most expensive family flats to rent

Family apartments in Geneva are the most expensive to rent, while those in St Gallen in the east of the country are the cheapest, according to a survey of the ten biggest Swiss cities. The median monthly rent for a 4.5-room apartment (100-110 square metres) in St Gallen costs CHF2,004 ($1,971), according to a survey published on Thursday by the price comparison website Comparis.

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Swiss teachers stretched thin with unpaid overtime work

Swiss teachers are still working too much unpaid overtime, particularly in German-speaking Switzerland, according to a new survey by two major teachers’ associations. “Swiss teachers have the highest number of working hours of all OECD countries and work unpaid overtime for hundreds of millions of francs,” denounced Beat Zemp, president of the Swiss Teachers’ Association (LCH).

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Gun law and corporate tax reforms set to be approved

Opponents of restrictions on gun ownership in Switzerland have not been able to win substantial additional support over the past months, according to an opinion poll ahead of a nationwide vote on May 19. The No camp lags more than 30 percentage points behind the supporters, a survey published by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation on Wednesday as found.

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Seizures of illegally imported medicines triple in Switzerland

The Federal Customs Administration seized 3,203 shipments of illegally imported medicines in 2018 – triple the amount of the previous year. Erectile stimulants remain at the top of the list of illegally imported substances, the Swiss Agency for Therapeutic Products (Swissmedic) said on Thursday.

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IT managers sentenced in ministry corruption case

Four suspects have been sentenced in a major corruption case involving a unit of the Swiss economics ministry. But the main defendant is still awaiting a formal indictment. The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) announced on Wednesday that a trustee was given a suspended six-month prison sentence and three external IT managers were ordered to pay fines for offering material contributions and gifts of up to CHF100,000 ($100,000) to a senior employee of the State Secretariat of Economic Affairs (SECO).

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Lawyer says that Volkswagen case stalling in Switzerland 

The lawyer representing about 500 people in Switzerland who have filed a complaint against German carmaker Volkswagen and importer AMAG says the Swiss attorney general is dragging his feet in the so-called ‘Dieselgate’ case. Geneva lawyer Jacques Roulet formally wrote a letter to the Swiss justice minister, Karin Keller-Sutter, complaining about the alleged delays “in a case of national importance,” according to news agency Keystone-SDA.

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Swiss president strengthens economic ties with China

Swiss President Ueli Maurer has been received by the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, for a state visit at the end of a week-long visit to China. The talks on Monday focused on strengthening relations, notably on economic and finance matters, according to a government statement.

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More asylum seekers find work in Switzerland

Over one-third of all asylum seekers and refugees in Switzerland are currently employed, according to State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) figures. But most of the jobs are precarious and the vast majority continue to receive state benefits. In one year, the employment rate for asylum seekers in Switzerland rose from 27% in March 2018 to 32% today, according to a report by the Ostschweiz and Zentralschweiz am Sonntag newspapers that cite recent SEM data.

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Oldest Swiss school in South America gets ministerial visit

Foreign Affairs Minister Ignazio Cassis, currently visiting Chile, has hailed education ties as he visited the country’s Swiss school abroad, the Colegio Suizo. The school, the oldest Swiss school abroad in South America and the only official Swiss school abroad in Chile, is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year.

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Over a third of Swiss jobs are part-time

The number of people working in Switzerland is on the rise. Meanwhile, part-time work is much more widespread in Switzerland than in the rest of Europe. In Switzerland, 84.2% of the population aged 15 to 64 had a job in 2018 – an increase of 2.9 percentage points since 2010. Within the European Union (EU), only Iceland has a higher level of employment.

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Geneva bans sale of single-use plastic on public land

Starting in 2020, the city of Geneva will prohibit the sale of disposable plastics at events as well as at sales points on public property – a year ahead of a similar EU ban. The new law will apply to kiosks, terraces, vending vans and ice cream parlours, as well as to all city-approved events held on public property. Banned products include plastic straws, cutlery, cups and other disposable containers, which are generally difficult to recycle in Switzerland.

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Good Friday, bad Gotthard traffic

Long queues have been reported at the Gotthard tunnel in central Switzerland as holidaymakers head south for the Easter break. The traffic jam at the northern end of the tunnel stands at 12 kilometres, with a wait of almost two hours, the Touring Club of Switzerlandexternal link (TCS) said on Friday morning.

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Rail bosses worried over train punctuality

Passengers Boarding a Train in Bern Station

The national railway operator, Swiss Federal Railways, has set up a taskforce to look into train punctuality – currently 90.1% – after the rate slipped slightly last year. News of the taskforce was broken by CH-Media groupexternal link and confirmed by the Federal Railwaysexternal link to the Swiss public broadcaster SRFexternal link. The group, made up of experienced management members, is to report back in six weeks’ time.

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Syngenta slammed for hazardous pesticide profits

A United Nations representative is demanding action following reports that Swiss crop science company Syngenta is selling highly hazardous pesticides abroad. “There is an urgent need to end this exploitation of lower standards of protection. This is a morally and ethically unjustifiable situation,” Baskut Tuncak, United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and toxics, told Swiss NGO Public Eye on Wednesday.

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Credit Suisse to take controlling stake in its Chinese joint venture

Swiss bank Credit Suisse has agreed with Founder Securities to increase its shareholding to a majority stake in its Beijing-based Credit Suisse Founder Securities (CSFS) joint venture. As a result of the agreement, Credit Suisse’s shareholding is expected to increase from 33.3% to 51% by way of capital injection. The shareholding of Founder Securities in CSFS will reduce to 49%.

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Swiss pension funds ended 2018 in the red

Pay-outs by Switzerland’s main state pension plan, which comprises old age insurance and other schemes, far exceeded income last year. Overall, the old age pension scheme recorded a deficit of CHF2.2 billion ($2.2 billion) in 2018 compared with a surplus of CHF1.1 billion the previous year, according to compenswiss, the Federal Social Security Funds.

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Swiss leaders upbeat after talks in US on tax and trade

Obstacles to implementation of a revised double-taxation agreement between Switzerland and the United States may soon be removed, according to Swiss president and finance minister Ueli Maurer. Maurer was speaking after a meeting with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Saturday in Washington, where he is attending the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank.

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Holiday traffic jams build at Gotthard tunnel

The start of the Easter holidays in many Swiss cantons is causing long tailbacks at the Gotthard tunnel in central Switzerland, with waits of more than two hours at the northern end. Just before midday on Saturday, the traffic queue to enter the tunnel going south stretched for 14 kilometres, according to the Touring Club of Switzerland (TCS). There was also a two-kilometre tailback at the southern end.

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Swisscom forges ahead with 5G amid safety fears

Telecoms operator Swisscom says it plans to cover 90% of Switzerland with “5G” fifth-generation mobile communications by the end of this year. “As soon as we have the concession for the new mobile frequencies, we will activate our networks,” Swisscom director Urs Schaeppi told the media on Wednesday. The networks were put in place in partnership with Swedish telecoms company Ericsson.

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Medical funding from big pharma continues apace

An investigative report by a group of Swiss newspapers has revealed the extent to which pharmaceutical companies are funding hospitals, doctors, and medical centres in the country. CHF458 million ($456.5 million): this was the amount paid by the 60 pharma companies based in Switzerland to various arms of the medical profession between 2015 and 2017, according to a report by the Beobachter, Handelszeitung, Blick, and Le Temps newspapers.

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More Swiss bankruptcies in 2018 than ever before

Last year saw a record number of bankruptcy procedures opened in Switzerland, with almost 14,000 cases involving bust businesses and individuals. The record numbers, released on Thursday by the Federal Statistical Office, mark a 5.4% increase on 2017 and translate to overall financial losses of some CHF2 billion ($2 billion).

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Foreign Investors Own 60 percent of Swiss Corporations

Global financial institutions are increasingly dominating the shareholders of major Swiss companies, according to the Sunday editionexternal link of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ). The German-language newspaper points to Swiss banking giant Credit Swiss as a prime example of a financial institution where traditional shareholder democracy is eroding fast.

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Switzerland continues to lure foreign companies

Switzerland attracted 282 foreign firms to set up shop in the alpine state, creating 899 jobs last year, according to cantonal economic chiefs. That’s an increase of 37 companies from 2017. Switzerland is in the throes of revamping its corporate tax system to keep it line with the competition rules of the European Union and Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

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Raiffeisen Switzerland bank to cut 200 jobs

Switzerland’s third-largest bank says it will cut up to 200 jobs to save CHF100 million ($100 million) this year. Raiffeisen is reorganising and undertaking a cost-cutting programme. This follows a recent fraud allegation scandal involving its former chief executive.

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Swiss likely to vote on capital tax reform plan

The leftwing Young Socialist group has handed in the necessary signatures to force a nationwide vote on its proposal to increase tax on capital revenue in Switzerland. The initiative intends to tax dividends and interest on wealth by a factor of 1.5 compared with regular income tax.

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IMF predicts Swiss growth to slow to 1.1percent in 2019

The Swiss economy is likely to slow in 2019, with gross domestic product growth expected to hit 1.1%, followed by a “moderate” recovery in 2020, the International Monetary Fund said on Monday. The IMF said in a concluding statement, published on Monday following a mission to Switzerland and an annual evaluation, that a “sustained regional slowdown, intensification of global trade tensions and a disruptive Brexit” would adversely affect the Swiss economy.

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Stadler lands $600 million order in the US

Swiss railway vehicle manufacturer Stadler Rail has won a $600 million (CHF597 million) order in the United States. The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTAexternal link) on Friday announced its decision to award Stadlerexternal link the contract for 127 Metro (underground) trains with two options of 25 additional trains each.

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Swiss expat community hits 760,000

Swiss Abroad 2018

The number of Swiss Abroad citizens grew by 1.1% to reach 760,200 at the end of last year. Most live in neighbouring countries and in the United States.The expatriate community accounts for 10.6% of the total number of Swiss nationals, according to official statistics published on Thursday. Nearly three-quarters of the Swiss Abroad have dual nationality.

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Almost 60,000 Swiss dwellings unoccupied last year

A significant increase in vacant homes is predicted by Zurich Cantonal Bank. Suburbs are particularly prone to lower occupancy levels. The problem of empty housing, particularly in the urban periphery, is likely to worsen, with construction activity concentrated in areas with already high vacancy rates. Last year around 59,700 homes did not have any tenants.

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Growth forecast lowered for Swiss economy

Worsening international conditions will have a negative impact on Switzerland’s export-driven economy, prompting the Swiss Economic Institute (KOF) to lower its forecast for this year. KOF on Wednesday announced it had revised its growth forecast down from 1.6% to 1% for Switzerland’s gross domestic product. However, the latest outlook for 2020 remains virtually unchanged with growth of 2.1%.

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Public transport enjoys another record year among tourists

Foreign visitors spent 6.4% more on Swiss Travel System tickets in 2018 than in the previous year. Sales rose to over CHF130 million ($131 million). 2018 is thus the sixth record year in a row, the Swiss Federal Railways said on Tuesday. Chinese guests were the top foreign users of public transport, with sales of CHF20.3 million, an increase of 14.9%.

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Watchdog confirms illegal activity by cryptocurrency firm Envion

An investigation by the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) has revealed the that Zug-based cryptocurrency venture Envion unlawfully received deposits from at least 37,000 investors. Envion unlawfully accepted over CHF90 million ($90.5 million) in its Initial Coin Offering (ICO) without the necessary statutory licence, according to a statement by FINMAexternal link on Wednesday.

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Additional flaw found in Swiss Post e-voting system

A second error in the Swiss Post planned e-voting system has been discovered as the public intrusion test phase comes to an end. The Federal Chancellery announced the need for action and confirmed a review of the e-voting certification and approval process. The same computer experts who discovered a critical error in the source code of Swiss Post’s new e-voting system earlier this month announced they discovered a further security gap.

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Swiss join protests against EU copyright reform

Tens of thousands of people across Europe, including in the Swiss city of Zurich, staged protests on Saturday against the European Union’s planned copyright reform bill. More than 1,000 demonstrators marched in the northeastern Switzerland against the copyright reforms which critics fear threaten freedom of speech, according to the Keystone-SDA news agency.

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Parliament rejects reform of health insurance scheme

Patients will not have to pay out extra money for health services before the health insurance covers the costs, after parliament surprisingly threw out the controversial proposal on Friday. In a previous decision earlier this month, parliament had agreed to increase the deductible paid by patients to CHF350 ($350) annually under certain conditions.

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Swiss companies make contingency plans amid Brexit uncertainty

As the Brexit saga continues, Swiss companies are preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. But optimism is waning among companies that are trying to minimise disruptions from any deal/no-deal scenarios. With the UK’s departure from the EU scheduled for March 29, British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday asked the EU bloc to postpone the UK’s departure until June 30.

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Top Swiss institutes launch joint cyber-security programme

Switzerland’s federal technology institutes have launched a new Masters degree in cyber-security as part of an effort to play a leading role in studying the protection of computers and networks. The two Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology, Lausanne’s EPFL and Zurich’s ETH, already offer “world-class training in the fields of computing and information technology,” said education and research minister Guy Parmelin at the announcement of the new Master in Cyber-security.

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Report urges more sustainability from Swiss financial centre

Switzerland must make its financial centre more sustainable and transparent to ensure it doesn’t lose access to the European market, according to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers seen by Swiss public radio, RTS. This conclusion was part of an assessment carried out by the consulting firm and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), which analysed the consequences of the European Union’s action plan on financing sustainable growth, due to be presented to the European Parliament next autumn.

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Parliament sets conditions on further EU payments

Switzerland should only make another billion-franc “cohesion” payment to the European Union if the EU doesn’t discriminate against Switzerland, parliament has agreed. The House of Representatives on Monday approved the CHF1.3 billion ($1.3 billion) that will help reduce the economic and social inequalities between old and new EU countries over the next decade.

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US lobbies Switzerland to drop Chinese telecom giant Huawei

The US has expressed concern over the use of Chinese technology in Switzerland, suggesting it may be used for espionage, reports the Sonntagszeitung newspaper. Sonntagszeitung cited the Swiss foreign ministry as saying that the US embassy in Bern had conducted “an exchange of views on this subject at diplomatic level.”

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Swiss agency suspends payments to migration platform

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) has temporarily suspended payments to a civil society platform on migration issues. Financial conflicts of interest and accusations of pro-migration bias are being investigated. On Thursday, the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) confirmed that the Swiss Civil Society Platform on Migration and Development will not be receiving any further funds.

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Court confirms legal weed should be taxed as tobacco

The Federal Administrative Court has upheld a decision by Swiss customs to tax legal marijuana leaves to the same extent as tobacco. In its decision published on Wednesday, the St Gallen court said that “fake” marijuana – i.e. cannabis containing less than 1% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – was sold primarily to be smoked, and therefore should be taxed similarly to tobacco.

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Report proposes third-class rail tickets for budget travellers in Switzerland

Swiss railway companies should introduce a third-class category for passengers on a budget, a report commissioned by the Federal Office of Transport has recommended. The NZZ am Sonntag newspaper said on Sunday that a recent federal government report, commissioned by an external expert group, had recommended introducing “third class aircraft-style seating for maximum capacity at favourable prices”.

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More electric vehicle charging stations to be built

The Swiss government has awarded concessions to five companies to set up additional electric charging stations at 100 rest areas along the country’s motorways. The decision, announced by the Federal Roads Office on Thursday, is part of government plans to boost e-transport.

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Brexit looms over Geneva motor show

The Geneva International Motor Show opens this week amid growing concerns about the impact of Brexit on car manufacturers in the UK and across Europe. Experts expect that a no-deal Brexit could lead to sudden tariffs that could disrupt the auto industry supply chain. With three weeks left until UK’s planned exit from the EU, some car manufacturers see the annual Geneva motor show as an opportunity to warn against a no-deal separation while solidifying plans to cope with disruptions, according to Keystone-SDA.

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Federal Court rejects complaint against Volkswagen importer

Switzerland’s highest court has dismissed a legal complaint by a consumer group against Amag, an importer of German Volkswagen diesel cars into Switzerland, linked to the emissions-rigging scandal. The Federal Court rejected an appeal by the SKS consumer group, stating that it had no case against VW and Amag; SKS claimed that they had misled car buyers and violated Swiss law.

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Good Year for Swiss Economy in 2018

After some years of steady but low growth, the Swiss economy expanded by 2.5% in 2018 on the back of a positive global situation. The figures, released on Thursday by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), showed growth last year that was a hair below expected (+2.6%) but which still marked a jump from 2017 figures (+1.6%).

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Swiss weapons exports increase 14 percent

Swiss companies last year exported government-approved war materiel to 64 countries with a total value of CHF510 million ($510 million), 14% more than the previous year. Germany was the largest customer, taking deliveries worth CHF118 million, followed by Denmark, the US, Romania and Italy, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) said on Tuesday.

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Tourists continue to flock to Switzerland

The number of overnight stays in Swiss hotels increased by 3.8% last year to 38.8 million. Domestic tourism also registered a rise with 17.7 million stays by Swiss guests – up 2.7% on the previous year – Switzerland Tourism said at its annual press conference on Tuesday. It also welcomed the 3.7% increase in European guests but added that in mountain regions this figure was still down 43% on 2008.

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Declining trend of cross-border workers continues

The number of cross-border workers in Switzerland – except those from France – has dropped for the second consecutive quarter. This marks the second year-on-year decline by quarter in 20 years. According to numbers released by the Federal Statistical Office on Thursday, the fourth quarter of 2018 saw 2,000 fewer people commuting to Switzerland to work compared to the same period the year before.

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UBS to appeal record €3.7 billion French tax fraud fine

A French court on Wednesday found Swiss bank UBS guilty of illicit solicitation and laundering of the proceeds of tax fraud, imposing a hefty fine of €3.7 billion (CHF4.2 billion). The bank was convicted of illegally helping wealthy French clients evade tax authorities in France. UBS, its French subsidiary and three of its former executives have also been ordered to pay civil damages of €800,000.

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Ministers make the case for tax and pension reform package

The Swiss government has launched its campaign in favour of the upcoming national vote on a reform of the corporate tax and pension systems. Ministers for health and finance, Alain Berset and Ueli Maurer, presented their case at a press conference on Monday, urging citizens to vote ‘yes’ on May 19.

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Wabco car systems manufacturer moves HQ to Switzerland

Car systems manufacturer Wabco Automotive has opted to move its global headquarters from Brussels to the Swiss capital, Bern. The company has plans to set up a competence centre in autonomous driving in collaboration with Swiss universities. “Switzerland is world-renowned for providing a highly favorable environment for breakthrough innovations and offers many distinct advantages for corporate headquarters,” said chairman and CEO Jacques Esculier in a statement on Friday.

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BLS train group to shelve 170 jobs by 2023

The BLS train company, which operates several routes in the regions around Bern, is to cut some 170 positions over the coming four years, for reasons of efficiency and automation. In a move criticized on Thursday by rail unions, BLS announced the cuts as part of planned efficiency gains that aim to save between CHF50-60 million ($49.8-59.2 million) by 2023.

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Scandals hurt Swiss Business Reputation in 2018

Switzerland’s reputation as a place to do business took a serious hit last year following various scandals, from corporate bank fraud to illegal subsidies. The Swiss Economy Reputation Index 2018external link, published on Tuesday by Basel-based consultancy Commslab and the fög research institute at the University of Zurich, dropped for the fifth consecutive quarter, reaching its lowest level since July 2014.

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Switzerland investigating Venezuela-linked corruption

Switzerland’s attorney general has opened an investigation into a corruption case involving Venezuela, according to a weekend report published by Schweiz am Wochenende. The Latin American nation is in the grips of a major political, economic and social crisis. According to the prosecutor’s statement to the weekly, proceedings were initiated at the end of 2017 against unknown persons “in the context of the events in Venezuela”.

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Train delay data queries image of Swiss railways

Trains operated by the state-owned Swiss national railway operator are less punctual than company statistics make believe. A private website, launched in 2017 and compiled from data provided by the transport ministry, found that on average one in six intercity trains – or just under 84% – operated by the Federal Railways is late. That is, it arrives at its destination with a delay of at least three minutes.

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Telecoms firms awarded 5G mobile frequencies

The Swiss government has raised CHF380 million ($379 million) from auctioning fifth-generation (5G) mobile radio frequencies, it said on Friday. The three Swiss main providers, Swisscom, Sunrise Communications and privately owned Salt, each received part of the spectrum after newcomer Dense Air dropped out of the bidding.

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Swiss start-ups to benefit from multi-million fund

Start-ups and innovative small and medium-sized businesses are to be encouraged to stay in Switzerland thanks to a new fund of up to CHF500 million ($499 million). The initiative, from Swiss Entrepreneurs Foundation (SwissEF) and launched on Thursday, has the backing of some heavy hitters in the business world, including insurer Mobiliar and banks UBS and Credit Suisse.

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Sunrise confirms talks to buy Liberty Global’s Swiss unit

Switzerland’s Sunrise Communications Group has confirmed it is in talks to buy Liberty Global’s cable operator UPC Switzerland. The company said in a statement on Tuesday: “Sunrise confirms it is in discussions with Liberty Global regarding a possible acquisition of UPC Schweiz. Sunrise will only pursue a transaction that is strategically compelling and demonstrably value creative for its shareholders.”

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Over 18 million unsolicited calls made every month in Switzerland

According to a consumer group, over 18 million unsolicited telephone calls are made every month in Switzerland. The SKS consumer group for German-speaking regions has addressed the problem of unsolicited phone calls in a letter sent to a Swiss parliamentary commission discussing the revision of the Swiss telecommunications law. A copy of the letter was recently published in Tamedia newspapers.

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Tourists return to Swiss mountain destinations

Overnight stays in Swiss Alpine resorts have increased for four consecutive seasons since winter 2016/17, with summer destinations doing better than winter destinations. Lucerne topped an international study of 145 resorts.

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Swiss bike couriers take out protection against Uber Eats

Swiss bicycle couriers have signed a ‘Europe-first’ collective bargaining agreement deal aimed at protecting them from cheaper rivals, such as the food delivery service Uber Eats. The courier employer’s association Swissmessengerlogistics (SML) negotiated the contract with the trade union Syndicom on Tuesday.

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Swiss firms increase EU lobbying

Swiss companies have sharply increased their lobbying in Brussels in the face of uncertain relations with the European Union. Switzerland has more companies lobbying in Brussels than many other European countries, writes the SonntagsBlick newspaper, citing the EU’s latest transparency register.

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No Swiss exemption from EU steel import cap

The European Union is imposing limits on steel coming into the bloc from Saturday in response to US President Donald Trump’s metals tariffs. The measures will also affect Swiss steel exports to the EU. The EU said on Friday that it is introducing new measures to prevent steel produced for the US market from flooding into Europe instead because of tariffs introduced by Trump.

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Swiss wage gap between genders remains bafflingly wide

The pay gap between men and women in Switzerland has increased slightly, amounting to hundreds of francs per month on average. Men earned 19.6% more pay than female colleagues in 2016, compared to a 19.5% difference in 2012. While some of this gap can be explained by length of service, additional qualifications and the like, in more than four out of ten cases researchers could see no reason why women are paid less.

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Half of Swiss Population Commutes Half an Hour to Work

Nine out of ten employees in Switzerland – or four million people total – commuted to work last year, most of them to another municipality, and most by car. In 2017, the average one-way Swiss commute was 15 kilometres (9.3 miles) and took 30.6 minutes, reported the Federal Statistical Officeexternal link on Tuesday.

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Novartis Stockpiles Drugs in UK to Ensure Supply

Novartis Imports

Swiss pharmaceuticals giant Novartis says a no-deal Brexit could hurt patients and that it is stockpiling medicines in the UK to help ensure continuity of supply. In a press releaseexternal link on Friday, it said that after the British parliament’s rejection of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal, “the risk of UK exiting the EU without a deal is increased and this will be hugely impactful for patients, particularly around the supply and safety of medicines”.

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Switzerland signs more post-Brexit deals with UK

Swiss President and Finance Minister Ueli Maurer has signed two agreements with the UK as part of the government’s strategy to maintain smooth ties after Brexit. The agreements on road transport and non-life insurance were signed with UK Chancellor Philip Hammond at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos on Friday, said the finance ministry.

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Swiss small businesses sound optimistic note for exports

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Switzerland are optimistic about export business at the start of 2019, a new survey has found, with over half expecting foreign sales to grow during the year. “The export climate will remain favourable for Swiss SMEs in 2019,” wrote the authors of a Switzerland Global Enterprise and Credit Suisse survey published on Thursday.

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Switzerland has second-most part-time workers in Europe

Part-time work in Switzerland continues to increase, with the latest figures from the Federal Statistical Office showing that over a third of employees work less than 90%. The figures, said the statistical office on Thursdayexternal link, show a marked increase in part-time work over the past 20 years: from 26.3% to 36.7%.

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Swiss firms in record number of mergers and acquisitions

The number of merger and acquisition deals involving Swiss companies hit a record high in 2018, according to a report by consultancy firm KPMG. Activity peaked in a number of sectors including financial services, consumer markets, technology, media and telecommunications, power and utilities, says KPMG. There were also a record number of private equity transactions.

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Workers paid in euros may not claim for currency losses

The Swiss Federal Court has ruled that two Swiss companies do not have to compensate two employees who were paid in euros and who ended up with less than their franc-earning colleagues. Explaining its decision on Tuesday, the country’s highest court said the cross-border workers from Germany and France had agreed to a corresponding change to their contracts in 2011 – knowing what it meant for their salaries – and therefore any subsequent demands for compensation were unlawful.

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Swiss and Italian leaders discuss cross-border tax deal

By spring, the Italian government is expected to clarify its position on a new tax system for cross-border commuters between Italy and Switzerland. “It is a delicate issue that must be digested sufficiently, with both administrative and political evaluations. It takes time, but spring is not far away,” Italian Foreign Affairs Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi told Swiss Foreign Affairs Minister Ignazio Cassis in Lugano in southern Switzerland on Monday.

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Financial watchdog pushes for upgrade of cyber defence

The chief executive of the Swiss financial watchdog, Mark Branson, has called for the creation of a national cyber defence centre. In an interview with the SonntagsZeitung newspaper, Branson reiterated that Switzerland was lagging on safety standards behind other financial centres.

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SIHH watch fair opens in Geneva

The Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) has opened in Geneva with 35 watch brands showing off their wares. SIHHexternal link will run until Thursday, when it is open to the public, who must register and pay CHF70 ($71.20) in advance. It is the first watch fair of the year and important in terms of setting trends, particularly in the luxury segment.

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Swiss government ups probe into Pilatus-Saudi deal

A Swiss aircraft manufacturer may have broken the law through part of a contract signed with Saudi Arabia. The foreign affairs ministry has begun a deeper investigation. Tasked with helping to maintain military training aircraft, 12 Pilatus employees are working in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. Swiss companies are legally obliged to report any activity with foreign armies.

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Central bank faces loss of CHF15 billion

The Swiss National Bank (SNB) says it expects to report a loss of about CHF15 billion ($15.3 billion) for 2018, mainly because of a weak performance of foreign currency positions. In a report on provisional annual calculations, the SNB said on Wednesday that the federal and cantonal authorities would nonetheless still benefit a CHF2 billion payment – two-thirds of which will go to the 26 cantons.

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Mars products boycotted by Swiss supermarket chain

Swiss supermarket chain Coop is refusing to stock products from food producing giant Mars in a dispute over prices. The retailer is part of a European buying consortium whose other members will also boycott Mars, Twix and Bounty confectioneries. The dispute is over how much retailers must pay for the good they stock on their shelves.

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Swiss unemployment hit ten-year low in 2018

The unemployment rate in Switzerland averaged 2.6% in 2018, a ten-year low, after strong economic growth in the first six months of the year, according to the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). The department said just over 118,000 people were registered with regional job centres during 2018 – 17.5% fewer than the previous year.

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EU needs more flexible negotiation tactics: UBS chairman

The European Union should stop dictating terms to Switzerland and start negotiating an acceptable compromise if it wants to find agreement on future ties, says UBS chairman Axel Weber. In an interview with the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper, Weber said the current EU demands are unlikely to be approved by the Swiss people should they be put to a referendum.

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One in two Swiss is happy with personal finances

One Swiss in two is satisfied with the state of their financial situation, according to a study. Just under a third (28%) expect their finances to improve in 2019. The French-speaking population is feeling much more positive than last year.

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Visitors flock to Swiss ski resorts over Christmas and New Year

Ski resorts have reported a busy period over Christmas and the New Year with numerous visitors enjoying the sunny weather and good snow conditions. The chic resort of Verbier in canton Valais registered over 20,000 skiers a day over the Christmas period, Laurent Vaucher, director of the Téléverbier lift company, told Keystone SDA on Wednesday.

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European Perch Crowned Fish of the Year

The European perch, or Perca fluviatilis, has been named the Fish of the Year for 2019. The Swiss Fishing Association said on Wednesday external linkthat it had chosen the perch to remind the public of its popularity, particularly as a culinary delicacy in Switzerland.

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Nestlé beats Royal Dutch Shell to become top in Europe

The Swiss-based food and drink multinational Nestlé is the most valuable European company, according to a new international survey. Nestlé edges out Royal Dutch Shell to move into 15th position worldwide – up three places with a stock market value of $252 billion (CHF250 billion), the annual report by the services company Ernst&Young found.

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Poll finds majority for greenhouse tax on plane tickets

An overwhelming majority of people in Switzerland appear to be in favour of introducing a tax on plane tickets to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. An online poll, published by the SonntagsZeitung newspaper, showed that 70% of respondents said they were prepared to pay between CHF12 to CHF50 ($12.2-$50.8) towards a CO2 tax depending on the duration of a flight.

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Swiss Lead Ranking of Globalised Countries

Switzerland was the most globalised country in the world, according to a 2016 survey by the KOF Swiss Economic Institute. It moved up one place to the top compared with the previous year. The Netherlands, Belgium. Sweden and Britain followed in the next places. The United States are in 23rd place and the Comoros, Afghanistan and Guinea-Bissau are bottom of the 195-country rankingexternal link, which was published on Thursday.

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Swiss Export Industry backs EU Framework Deal

Hans Hess

Switzerland’s largest industrial employer, the Association of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Industries, has come out in favour of a controversial accord, covering relations with the European Union. Hans Hess, president of Swissmem, said the draft agreement was tailor-made for Switzerland.

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Mixed Outlook for Swiss watchmakers

Swiss Watch Industry

The Swiss watchmaking industry expects a continuing rise in exports next year but is concerned that the United States’ protectionist trade policy could have a negative impact on the sector. Jean-Daniel Pasche, president of the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, said the sector would record in 2018 the third consecutive year with growth, and the value of exports could exceed CHF21 billion ($21.2 billion).

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Swiss Post handles record volume of Christmas parcels

Swiss Post sorted and delivered a record 1.4 million parcels a day in the week before Christmas, which can be attributed to the continued growth of online shopping. This compares with last year’s record of 1.3 million set on December 19, Swiss Post said on Boxing Day.

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Swiss foreign minister defends proposed EU deal

Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis

Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis has rejected criticism of the results of negotiations with the European Union about a framework accord, encompassing all aspects of political relations between Switzerland and the 28-nation bloc.

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Halal label on Swiss chocolate sparks controversy

Some consumers in Switzerland and abroad have been questioning the halal label on Toblerone chocolate bars. Although certified as halal in April, it was only this week that a small storm began brewing on social media – with some people calling for boycotts of the chocolate produced by Mondelez in Bern.

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Swiss Luxury Watches Fail to Meet Environmental Standards

The Swiss branch of the environmental organisation, WWF, has called on Swiss-based watch companies to take more responsibility for ecological and social impacts, notably the use of gold. In its reportexternal link analysing the 15 biggest watch brands, the WWF says its findings are highly worrying as most companies have done nothing to address and counter climate change.

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Smartphones change Swiss shopping habits

More and more people in Switzerland are relying on their smartphone to shop, pay and transfer money, although, compared internationally, the Swiss are still cautious. The Global Mobile Consumer Survey 2018, published on Wednesday by consultants Deloitte, found that 92% of all adults in Switzerland own at least one smartphone, 5% own only a mobile phone and 3% own neither. Similar trends are seen globally.

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Apple will fix tech-glitch to benefit TWINT

Switzerland’s Competition Commission announced on Tuesday that Apple has agreed to come up with a more competitive technical solution to the benefit of Swiss payment method TWINT. The automatic activation of Apple Pay at payment terminals can interrupt payments made by the TWINT application, noted the commission.

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Majority of Swiss company CEOs are foreign

A total of 52% of CEOs from the 50 firms on the SMI Expandedexternal link stock exchange are from abroad, according to a study published on Monday by the recruitment consultancy Heidrick & Strugglesexternal link. A year ago, when the profiles of Swiss executives were evaluated for the first time, the figure was 49%.

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UK signs air service deal with Switzerland for post-Brexit flights

British Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling is set to sign an agreement with Switzerland on Monday to ensure air services continue to operate between the two countries after Brexit. Britain is due to leave the European Union on March 29, but uncertainty over how, or even if, Brexit will happen has increased the possibility of the country exiting without a deal on departure terms, a scenario that some companies said would usher in chaos.

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Swiss prepare to fight age discrimination

A people’s initiative, allowing workers over 50 to sue for age discrimination, will be launched soon, the NZZ am Sonntag reported on Sunday. According to Heidi Joos, the CEO of Avenir 50 plus, one of the organisations behind the project, this proposed constitutional provision should allow employees to sue a company if they believe they have been dismissed for age-related reasons or if their application for employment has not been taken into account for the same reasons.

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Drones can be safely guided by mobile phone networks

Switzerland’s existing mobile telephony infrastructure is enough to guarantee the safety of drone flights in the country’s airspace, according to a study published Wednesday. Commissioned by Swiss air navigation service provider Skyguide and carried out by the Aviation Research Center Switzerland (ARCS), the study focused on the possibility of using mobile networks to control drones.

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Swiss investment management sector growing

As the Swiss financial centre adjusts to the loss of banking secrecy and possible fallout from Brexit, a report highlights increased investment management as the sector’s cornerstone. The report, released on Thursday by the Swiss Bankers Association (SBA) and the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), outlines the emergence of investment management – the “management of investments for institutional and private clients” – as a key component of the Swiss financial centre.

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Swiss Post Office Expands Hospital Drone Delivery System

The Swiss Post is expanding its drone delivery system, transporting laboratory samples between two hospitals in Zurich. Similar pilots have been conducted in Bern and Lugano. On Tuesday, the Swiss Post announced it is launching a one-year pilot project to use drones to send laboratory samples between the University Hospital of Zurich and the Irchel site of the University of Zurich, which are 2.5 kilometres apart.

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Swiss complaint over US tariffs to be reviewed by WTO panel

A Swiss complaint to the World Trade Organization (WTO) against United States import tariffs on aluminium and steel will be decided by a WTO panel. On Tuesday, the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) accepted to create separate panels to hear the complaints by Switzerland and India, after the two countries filed a second request for their cases to be heard.

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Amazon reduces online offer for Swiss customers

Shoppers in Switzerland will no longer be able to buy items from the US Amazon website due to recent changes to Swiss value-added tax law. Exceptions will be made for e-books and apps. “From 26 December 2018 customers shopping on Amazon.com and other non-EU Amazon websites will not be able to ship non-digital orders to any shipping address in the Swiss Customs Union,” Amazon said on Monday.

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Swiss Starbucks Customers Vulnerable due to Insecure WiFi

An investigation by Swiss Public Television, SRF, has found that data isn’t sufficiently protected when customers use WiFi at cafes in Switzerland of the global coffee chain. Free WiFi access at Starbucks – one of the great perks offered by the company – was investigated by the SRF consumer programme “Kassensturzexternal link”.

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Wage Losses for Heads of Major Swiss Firms

On average, heads of large Swiss corporations have suffered a marked drop in salary. In 2017, the median wage of the heads of 20 leading companies dropped by nearly 30%. According to the executive compensation report published by consulting firm PwCexternal link on Tuesday, the median salary of the heads of 20 firms in the leading SMI index fell from CHF7.7 million ($7.7 million) to CHF5.5 million.

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Hot weather and microbreweries boost Swiss beer sales

The Swiss beer market recovered last year thanks to the hot weather, as well as the continued boom in microbreweries and thirst for local craft beers. The Swiss beer market grew by 1.8% to 469 million litres (124 million gallons) between October 1, 2017 and September 30, 2018. This follows a steady downward trend in beer drinking in recent years.

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Swiss Among top Coffee Consumers

The Swiss love their coffee and knock back more than three cups per day. They came in third, behind Germans and Norwegians, in an international ranking of coffee consumers. The Swiss drank no less than 1100 cups of coffee per person per day, according to a ranking published on Monday by CafetierSuisseexternal link, a catering industry employer’s association.

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Bern corporate tax cuts flop at ballot box

Voters in canton Bern have rejected a proposal to lower corporate taxes, dealing a surprise blow to the government and parliament trying to give the canton a competitive edge. Nearly 54% of voters on Sunday came out against a planned lowering of tax rates for companies headquartered in the canton meeting certain criteria.

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Swiss Post Office appoints CEO to steer clear of controversy

The Swiss Post Office has appointed a new chief executive to lead the state-owned company out of a troubled few months following a subsidies scandal that came to light earlier this year. Roberto Cirillo will take over at the helm next April, replacing interim boss Ulrich Hurni, the Swiss Post announced on Thursday. Hurni has been minding the fort since Susanne Ruoff was forced to quit as CEO in June.

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Two-thirds of Swiss see artificial intelligence as job threat

Only 34% of Swiss people believe their jobs are not at risk from automation and machine learning, according to a survey commissioned by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC). Almost half of the 2,092 people surveyed by the Link Institute for SBC felt that some of their daily tasks could be done by machines and algorithms, while 15% were convinced that robots could do much of their work.

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Skills Shortage on the Rise in Key Professions

Switzerland’s talent shortage is more pronounced in 2018, a new survey has found. Technical, financial, and medical professions are most affected, while job seekers in the hospitality, retail, and administrative sectors face the greatest competition.

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Taxes and insurance eat up almost 30percent of Swiss household income

Swiss households spend an average of 29% on mandatory payments like taxes, social contributions and health insurance. Figures released by the Swiss Statistical Office on Monday reveal that, based on 2016 data, a Swiss household had an average income of CHF7,124 ($7,140), of which CHF2,910 was eaten up by unavoidable expenses.

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Bankers are no longer Switzerland’s top earners

The pharmaceutical industry and insurance companies have overtaken banking as the best paid sectors in Switzerland, according to the NZZ am Sonntag. In 2016, bank executives took home an average gross salary of CHF220,000 ($220,394) per year, which is CHF 40,000 less than ten years ago.

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Swiss civil servants incur CHF121 million in expenses

The expenses of Swiss civil servants added up to CHF 121.7 million ($122 million) last year, according to the SonntagsBlick newspaper. Counting the 34,800 full-time positions in the federal administration in 2016, that level of spending amounts to almost CHF3,500 per civil servant.

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Home-care services increase, nursing home stays stagnate

Better at home than in a home: almost 350,000 people made use of assistance and home-care services (Spitex) last year, 10,000 more than in 2016. In contrast, the number of residents of old-age and nursing homes remained constant at 149,000, 15% of them for a short stay. Spitex, a Swiss non-profit organisation that provides in-home nursing services like changing bandages and administering medicine, chalked up nearly 16 million hours of home care and more than six million hours of assistance, according to figuresexternal link published on Thursday by the Federal Statistical Office.

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Financial institutions raided over mobile pay deals

The Swiss Competition Commission has searched the premises of Credit Suisse and UBS, PostFinance and the credit card companies Swisscard and Aduno for allegedly boycotting mobile payment methods such as Apple Pay and Samsung Pay. The Competition Commission said on Thursday it had opened an investigation on Tuesday.

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Visana insurance president commits suicide

The president of the Swiss insurance firm Visana, Urs Roth, committed suicide on Monday, the firm has announced. In recent years, several top Swiss executives have taken their lives. “It is with great sadness that we inform you about the death of our Chairman of the Executive Board, Mr. Urs Roth, who took his own life yesterday,” Visana said in a brief statement.

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Switzerland signs up to ‘Paris Call’ for a safer internet

In Paris on Monday, several hundred governments and tech companies – and Switzerland – signed a new charter for trust and security online. In the so-called ‘Paris Call’, launched by French President Macron at the UNESCO Internet Governance Forum in Paris, signatories pledged to support “an open, safe, stable, accessible, and peaceful cyberspace” where international law applies, and individual rights are protected.

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Study finds ‘worrying’ suicide rates among Swiss farmers

The suicide rate among Swiss farmers is almost 40% higher than the average for men in rural areas, a study has found. The main causes are fears about the future and financial worries. A survey by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), reported in the SonntagsZeitung, found that between 1991 and 2014, 447 Swiss farmers took their lives. 

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PKB private bank officials under investigation for fiscal fraud

Eighteen managers at the Swiss private bank PKB Privatbank are being investigated in Italy for fiscal fraud and money laundering, according to an Italian prosecutor. The Milan Public Prosecutor’s Office, led by Francesco Greco, is carrying out the investigation against the officials, who are residents in Italy where PKB owns the Italian private bank Cassa Lombarda.

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UBS prepares to fight US mortgage-backed securities lawsuit

UBS Group AG, Switzerland’s largest bank, says it will “vigorously” contest a United States Department of Justice lawsuit concerning mortgage-backed securities it sold in the run-up to the 2008 global financial crisis. In a statement issued on Wednesday, UBS said it had been advised that the DOJ intends to file a civil complaint as early as Thursday “related to UBS’s issuance, underwriting and sale of residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) more than a decade ago”.

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Swiss franc still highly valued, but no policy change

The Swiss franc, investment in arms, and the housing market were some of the issues the government discussed with the chairman of the Swiss National Bank. SNB chairman Thomas Jordan told the government that he sees the Swiss currency as highly valued and warned of the continuing risks of bubbles in the housing market.

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‘Lighthouse’ Planned for Swiss Mountain Top

Plans have been presented to upgrade a popular tourist destination on a mountain top in central Switzerland. As part of the CHF100 million ($100 million) project on the Titlis, a building made of steel and glass will be added to the existing tower for technical installations on 3,028 metres (9,934 feet) altitude.

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Builders Resume Street Protests

Construction workers have continued their protests against worsening labour conditions in Switzerland. An estimated 4,000 people took to the streets of Lausanne on Monday in the latest stage of a series of short regional strikes underway since mid-October.

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Federal office decides drug price cuts

There will be an average drop of almost 20% in the price of 288 medicines from December 1, the Federal Office of Public Health says. Savings of around CHF100 million ($100 million) are expected. The move comes at a time of debate over the high costs of medicines in Switzerland.

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Top Finance Ministry Official to Step Down

Jorg Gasser

The State Secretary for International Finance, Jörg Gasser, is to step down in February after three years in office. It was Gasser’s decision to leave the post, according to a statement by the finance ministry on Wednesday.

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More Swiss construction workers go on strike

Following strikes in Ticino and Geneva earlier this month, 1,500 construction workers have continued the protest in French-speaking Switzerland. According to the labour unions, more than 1,500 workers from cantons Freiburg, Neuchâtel, Valais and Jura put their tools down on Tuesday.

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Critics of Mercosur deal Name Conditions for Support

A coalition of Swiss farming organisations, consumers and NGOs says it is in favour of a free trade agreement between Switzerland and the four Mercosur countries: Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay. But it is demanding binding criteria concerning sustainability.

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Doctors’ Salaries Exceed eEpectations

The salaries of self-employed doctors in Switzerland are around a third higher than previously thought, according to a study by the Federal Office of Public Health. The median wage is CHF257,000 ($258,000). However, certain specialists can earn considerably more: neurosurgeons, for example, take home a median salary of CHF697,000 and gastroenterologists CHF627,000.

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PostBus may lose some routes after scandal

Post Bus

The state-owned PostBus company is threatened with losing bus routes in several regions, following a scandal over illegal subsidies. Jura is the first canton that will put its 38 routes out to tender next spring, SonntagsZeitungexternal link has reported.

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Tax System Problems Result in CHF 1.8bn Shortfall

The Federal Tax Administration’s IT project Insieme was a financial disaster and its replacement isn’t much better, according to the Swiss Federal Audit Office (SFAO). Systems are unreliable and underperforming, with billions in tax demands still outstanding.

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Mountain regions to benefit from digital push

A campaign has been launched to promote digitalisation in small companies based in Swiss mountain regions. On Wednesday, the Federation of Adult Learning and Swiss Mountain Aid presented a project for companies with fewer than 50 employees to allow for training in internet technology.

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Switzerland Retains Top Spot in Global Wealth Ranking

Despite a slight decline in fortunes, the Swiss still enjoy the highest mean wealth per adult, according to the 2018 Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report. The reportexternal link, released on Thursday, estimated the average fortune of a Swiss adult to be $530,240 (CHF527,707) compared to $537,600 the previous year. The Alpine nation still comes out on top, followed by Australia ($411,060) and the United States ($403,970).

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Steep Increase in Swiss Housing Prices in Last Decade

Apartment prices have risen in every district in Switzerland in the last eleven years except for one. Zurich tops the list with a median price of CHF 13,000 ($1313) per square metre – a 97% increase since 2007. This is according to a study by the Zurich Federal Institute of Technology (ETHZ) in partnership with comparison website comparis.ch.

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Global economic competitiveness stumbles in face of technology transformation

A major update to the World Economic Forum’s annual Global Competitiveness Index reveals that the global economy is ill-prepared for the transformation brought on by technology disruption. While the United States comes the closest to the “competitive frontier” taking the top spot in the ranking, the WEF warns that government policies need to catch up to prevent rapid technological change from becoming a drag on competitiveness.

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Builders strike in Ticino over worsening work conditions

Some 3,000 construction workers staged a strike in southern Switzerland on Monday to protest changes in the industry, including disputes around the retirement age of 60. Further action is planned in Geneva on Tuesday. The strikes in canton Ticino were jointly called by the Unia, Syna, and OCST trade unions, who claimed that business leaders were “blackmailing” workers with worsening conditions as a quid pro quo for maintaining the current industry retirement age of 60.

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Business group pushes for more streamlined farming sector

The main Swiss business federation has released its recommendations for the government’s sensitive reforms of the agriculture sector. Farmers’ groups reacted with cautious approval. Economiesuisse gave its appraisal of the government’s 2022 agricultural reform plans on Monday, an appraisal that mostly centred around the simplification and decentralisation of agricultural measures.

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Top US bank keen on Swiss mortgage market

Swiss retail banks may face increased competition by a leading United States bank on the domestic housing market. The Goldman Sachs group is reportedly considering plans to enter the Swiss mortgage market, according to the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper.

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One in three Swiss flights delayed

The Swiss International Airlines is among the worst victims of a shortage of air traffic controllers in Europe. About 34% of all Swiss flights are delayed because of issues with air navigation safety or at the airport, the SonntagsZeitung newspaper reports quoting data from Eurocontrol.

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IMF raises Swiss economic growth forecast

The Swiss economy is tipped to grow by 3% by the end of this year, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In April, the organisation had forecast Switzerland’s gross domestic product (GDP) to rise by 2.3%.

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UBS tax fraud trial opens in Paris

A sweeping investigation into UBS bank, accused of tax fraud and money laundering, comes to trial in Paris today. The bank risks a fine of up to €5 billion (CHF5.7 billion). The trial is set to begin on Monday after years of investigations into the Swiss bank’s French activities, as well as aborted negotiations in which authorities made a settlement offer of €1.1 billion.

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Swiss-US tax data transfer method ‘violates law’

The Swiss Data Protection Commissioner has issued a legal complaint against the Finance Ministry for sending the names of bank employees, lawyers, accountants and other third parties to the United States to assist with tax evasion investigations.

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Digitization ‘to cost one million jobs’ in Switzerland

The growing trend of digitization in the economy will render a million Swiss jobs redundant in the next 12 years, according to a new study. Some 800,000 jobs will be clawed back by new IT openings, but much of the workforce will need to be re-trained, warns consultancy firm McKinsey. Automation will mainly take the place of manual labour, office and retail workers, says the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper, which has seen an advance copy of the McKinsey report.

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Swiss take the Train more often, and further, than European Neighbours

The latest Europe-wide figures confirm Switzerland’s reputation as a country of trains, with average trips and kilometres covered per habitant far higher than elsewhere. Some 72 trips and 2,463 kilometres: this was the average train time for each Swiss resident in 2016, according to Eurostat figures reported Tuesday by Litraexternal link, the Swiss information service for public transport.

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Swiss investments in Turkey drop by half

The severe policies of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have led to Swiss companies decreasing their investments in Turkey by 50% compared to the average over the past decade, Swiss Public Television SRF reports. Over the last ten years, Swiss companies have on average invested some CHF200 million ($202 million) in Turkish markets, but today the figures amount to roughly half that.

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Study finds Swiss economy is looking up, but risks abound

Switzerland’s GDP is on track this year to increase by 2.9%, according to a forecast by Zurich’s KOF Swiss Economic Institutepublished Wednesday. This positive outlook is tempered by concerns over the potentially negative impact of global trade wars and a no-deal Brexit on the neutral nation.

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Strong Swiss agricultural output recorded despite droughts

Swiss agricultural production is up in 2018, driven largely by bigger hauls of wine, fruit and milk, according to the latest official statistics. Productivity is also on the rise. The yearly production estimate of CHF10.6 billion ($10.7 billion) released on Tuesday by the Federal Statistical Office represents an increase of 2.7% on 2017 figures.

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Tax amnesty ends for undeclared EU assets

The automatic exchange of information between Switzerland and the European Union came into effect on Monday. Owning property abroad without declaring it will no longer be possible. The deadline of September 30 ended the possibility of coming forward voluntarily, reported Swiss public television, RTS, on Sunday. For latecomers who have assets outside Switzerland and who failed to declare them, doing so now can no longer be considered voluntary.

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Switzerland increases employment permits for non-EU workers

The Swiss authorities have responded to demands from companies and cantons for access to highly-skilled employees by granting 1,000 extra permits for workers that come from outside the European Union from next year. From 2019, firms will be able to recruit 8,500 foreign workers from countries such as the United States, China and India.

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Swiss no longer in top ten in world university ranking

The Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich) remains the best university in continental Europe, despite slipping one place to 11th in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2019. The list, which was released on Wednesday, scores 1,250 universities on five main criteria: teaching, research, citations, industry income and international outlook. Over 20,000 responses to a survey from 2017 and 2018 on reputation of the universities also influenced the ranking.

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UBS lays out cities most at risk of overheated property markets

An index by Swiss bank UBS shows significant risks of real estate bubbles in booming cities such as Hong Kong, Munich and Toronto. The Swiss cities of Zurich and Geneva remain relatively stable.The 2018 Global Real Estate Bubble Indexexternal link, published on Thursday, found that bubble (or overvaluation) risk soared in Munich, Amsterdam and Hong Kong over the past year; the latter tops the scale as most at risk.The report also pointed to Vancouver, San Francisco and Frankfurt as cities where “imbalances continued to grow”.

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Novartis to cut 2,200 Swiss jobs by 2020

The pharmaceutical giant Novartis will cut about 2,200 jobs in Switzerland over the next four years. Nearly 1,500 jobs are affected in production and about 700 in services. This restructuring is part of the manufacturing strategy launched in 2015 to adapt the industrial base to a reduced product portfolio, announced Novartis on Tuesday. It currently employs 13,000 people across Switzerland.

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Almost one in five Swiss residents have dual nationality

Around 17% of Swiss residents over the age of 15 hold two passports. The canton of Geneva has the highest proportion of dual nationals at 45%. According to figures released by the Federal Statistical Office (FSO) on Tuesday, the double nationality rate exceeds 20% in the cantons of Zurich, Basel City, Ticino, Vaud and Neuchâtel.

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Thousands demonstrate in Bern for equal pay

A national rally in favour of equal pay and against discrimination has taken place in the Swiss capital, attracting some 20,000 people, according to organisers. Unions, political parties and supporting organisations said in the run-up to the rally on Saturday that although equality was enshrined in the constitution 37 years ago and the law had been in force for 22 years, even today power and money are distributed differently among women and men.

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Swiss CEOs still the best-off in Europe

A report on the salaries of CEOs across Europe has found that Switzerland once again tops the table, ahead of Great Britain and Germany. The report also discovers that salaries have risen over the past year.

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Clariant announces strategic overhaul with Saudi partner

Swiss specialty chemical maker Clariant has signed a memorandum of understanding to enter into a strategic partnership with Saudi Arabian firm SABIC. This will result in a major restructuring of the company along with changes in management and the board of directors. On Tuesday, Clariant said the collaboration will see the merger of units from both companies into a new High Performance Materials division.

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Over 7,000 farms get lower subsidies due to irregularities

The federal authorities last year cut direct subsidies paid to 16% of all Swiss farms due to irregularities often due to animal protection and welfare issues. In all, 7,145 farms, or 16% of the total, received lower payments, the SonntagsZeitung wrote on Sunday. The report was based on figures that have yet to be published by the Federal Office for Agriculture, but which were confirmed by the economics ministry.

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Credit Suisse found lacking in fight against money laundering

Swiss bank Credit Suisse has failed to meet its obligations to prevent money laundering, says Switzerland’s financial supervisory authority. According to FINMA, the Financial Market Supervisory Authorityexternal link, the misconduct is related to the alleged corruption cases around FIFA, world football’s governing body, and the oil companies Petrobas and PDVSA.

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Basel-EuroAirport rail link should open in 2028

The EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Fribourg Airport should be accessible by rail by 2028. Project leaders are convinced that trains will replace the buses currently connecting the city of Basel to the airport within ten years. The French national railway company SNCF said on Thursday that is it is normal that financing for a project of this magnitude is not yet fully secured in France.

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Is the tide turning for social media platforms in Switzerland?

The Swiss appear to be switching off from social media, according to a survey, which suggests that the image of Facebook and Twitter have taken a hit. Some 55% of the Swiss population used social media in 2017, down 4% compared with a year earlier, a media brand study for the consultancy firm Publicom revealed. The report, published on Wednesday, says that social media lost more users last year than print media.

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Takeovers and trade at heart of minister’s China visit

It is unfair that whilst Chinese investors can buy Swiss companies the reverse is not possible, says economics minister Johann Schneider-Ammann, who is currently on a visit to China. In an interview with the “Schweiz am Wochenende” newspaper, he reiterated his view that this must be rectified. For infrastructure like electricity supply and telecommunications, the government should be able to intervene “if a company is threatened by a foreign takeover”, he told the newspaper. He said this should apply to American as well as Chinese takeover attempts.

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Older people marginalized on Swiss labour market, says report

Despite recent government optimism about the Swiss economy, older people who lose their jobs are struggling, reports Sunday newspaper “Le Matin Dimanche”. The paper cites figures from the Bern University of Applied Sciences that found only 13.9 per cent of unemployed people over 50 in Switzerland find a stable job again. Many end up on social assistance after their unemployment benefits run out.

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Melting glaciers have little impact on Swiss hydropower

Although rapidly melting glaciers provide a temporary boost to Swiss hydropower production, their disappearance does not pose a threat, finds a study from the University of Lausanne. Forecasts predict that glacier melt will slow down between 2070 and 2090. But “fears of a threat to power generation are unfounded”, according to a press release published on Thursday by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), which funded the study.

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India’s Aurobindo buys Sandoz US assets from Novartis

Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis announced the divestment of its dermatology and generic tablet portfolios of Sandoz US to India’s Aurobindo Pharma for a $900 million (CHF870 million) cash payment. A possible performance-related payment of $100 million could be added to the purchase price, the Swiss AWP financial news agency reported.

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Novartis chief hints at job cuts in Switzerland

The president of pharmaceutical giant Novartis has announced job cuts in an interview with Swiss newspaper NZZ am Sonntag. Jörg Reinhardt said the Basel-based company wants to streamline its production sites and administration worldwide.

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Minister says state-guaranteed cantonal banks complicate EU talks

Swiss finance minister Ueli Maurer says state-guaranteed cantonal banks are an obstacle in ongoing negotiations with the European Union. “This point still needs to be clarified before a framework agreement can be accepted,” the minister is quoted as saying in an interview published on Saturday.

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SkyWork lands its last ever plane in Bern Airport

The last SkyWork flight landed in Bern Airport on Wednesday night, as ongoing financial difficulties forced the company to declare itself bankrupt. Some 11,000 passengers are affected. The company, founded in 1983, cited the failure of negotiations with a potential partner to pull the company from recurring funding shortfalls that intensified in October last year.

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Government Reinforces Critical Infrastructure against Cyber Attacks

In the wake of several major cyber security attacks, the government has released minimum standards for companies and organisations to help protect the country’s critical energy, food, and water infrastructure. Some critics question whether a minimum standard goes far enough as basic services become increasingly dependent on digital technology.

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Swiss back at the top in small arms trade transparency

Switzerland has come out top in a ranking about the world’s most transparent small arms exporters. With a score of 21.75 out of a possible 25 points, Switzerland came first ahead of the Netherlands, Britain, Italy and Serbia, according to the 2018 Transparency Barometerexternal link, published on Wednesday.

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Credit Suisse freezes $5 billion in US-Russia sanctions move

The Swiss Credit Suisse bank froze some CHF5 billion ($5 billion) of assets linked to Russia earlier this year in an effort to toe the line with US sanctions levied against Moscow. The bank froze the funds in the second quarter of 2018, according to Reuters, in response to sanctions introduced by Washington in April.

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Swiss cereal harvests set to drop in 2018 after hot weather

Bread wheat, barley, and rapeseed harvests look set to be considerably lower in Switzerland in 2018 compared to previous years, due to the prolonged heat and drought-like conditions this summer. The figures, collected by the Swiss granum organization, were based on data supplied by 29 cereal collection centres, covering 35% of the Swiss barley market, 50% of the bread wheat market, and 55% of the rapeseed market.

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Zurich scientists urge state pension fund to divest from fossil fuels

Professors and researchers from Zurich’s Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) have joined the chorus of civil society actors calling for the Swiss state pension fund to divest from fossil fuels. In a letter to Publica, one of the largest pension funds in Switzerland, 166 experts from ETH Zurich, including 128 professors, demanded it stop investing in climate-damaging companies within five years.

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Zurich bank settles tax evasion probe with US

The Zürcher Kantonalbank (ZKB) has agreed to pay the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) $98.5 million (CHF97.7 million) to resolve a long-running investigation into its role in tax evasion by wealthy Americans using undeclared Swiss bank accounts.

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Swiss public transport given good cost-effectiveness marks

Using public transport infrequently in Switzerland is expensive, but thanks to new special offers such as “early bird” rates Switzerland does well when it comes to value for money, according to an international study. “Travelling by train, bus or boat is expensive in Switzerland,” is a common refrain among Swiss people – and especially tourists.

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Traffic jams cost Swiss more than just time

Various costs related to traffic jams totalled CHF1.9 billion ($1.9 billion) in 2015, up 7% from 2010, according to the Swiss Office for Spatial Development. In a statement released on Wednesday (link in French, German and Italian), the office said that costs stemming from wasted time accounted for 70% of the losses, having increased by 14% since 2010. However, other costs related to the climate (+12%) and the environment (+3%) also increased between 2010 and 2015.

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CEO of Baselworld steps down

The head of the world’s largest watch and jewellery trade show, the Swiss-based Baselworld, has handed in his resignation amid a row over the departure of several exhibitors. The MCH Group announced that CEO Peter Kamm would resign from his position “in view of the fundamental transformation phase in business operations”.

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Swiss court blocks French request for UBS banking data

Switzerland’s Federal Administrative Court has ordered the Federal Tax Administration (FTA) not to provide France with details about 40,000 UBS bank clients with French addresses. In May 2016, the French tax authorities requested administrative assistance from the FTA. They wanted details about UBS clients who lived or had lived in France.

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Swatch Group withdraws from Baselworld

With the departure of its largest exhibitor from 2019, it’s yet another setback for the world’s largest watch and jewellery trade show, which has seen participation dwindle in recent years.

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UBS Boss Bemoans Geopolitical Jitters

UBS may have seen quarterly profits rise year-on-year, but chief executive Sergio Ermotti says the threat of trade wars and political unrest has dampened investor enthusiasm and continues to hold back financial markets.

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Zurich Airport to Limit Night-Time Flight Traffic

Federal aviation authorities have decided to limit the number of time slots for planes at Switzerland’s main airport in Zurich. The Federal Office of Civil Aviationexternal link said it has ordered a freeze on landings after 9pm and for take-offs after 10:20pm to reduce the noise for residents living near the airport.

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Swiss slap nearly 20,000 fines over labour violations

Swiss authorities sanction on average ten companies per day for violating wage protection rules, according to official figures. That corresponds to 19,200 fines in the span of five years. NZZ am Sonntag published these figures on Sunday on the basis of a list compiled by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).

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Rothschild bank sanctioned for role in 1MDB scandal

The Swiss financial regulator has concluded its investigations into the Malaysian 1MDB scandal by finding Rothschild Bank AG and one of its subsidiaries in serious breach of anti-money laundering regulations. The Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) said on Friday that it has appointed an auditor to make sure the bank and its Rothschild Trust vehicle properly implement an internal overhaul of its practices.

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Swiss bank settles US tax evasion probe

The Zurich-based Neue Privat Bank (NPB) has paid $5 million (CHF5 million) fine to settle a criminal tax evasion investigation in the United States. NPB is one of a handful of so-called ‘category 1’ Swiss or Swiss-based bank branches that were still facing sanctions at the start of this year.

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Swiss claim success in international cybercrime case

Two people suspected of illegally obtaining and using the e-banking data of Swiss bank customers have been arrested in the Netherlands. The Swiss Office of the Attorney General says the suspects were arrested near the city of Rotterdam and premises were searched in the coordinated operation between Dutch and Swiss police and justice authorities.

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Uber plans softer Swiss expansion drive

The ride sharing service Uber plans to expand further in Switzerland, but not as aggressively as in the past, Swiss head Steve Salom says in a newspaper interview. Uber is present in Zurich, Basel, Geneva and Lausanne with 300,000 regular customers and some 2,600 drivers in Switzerland, Salom told SonntagsBlick.

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Switzerland files WTO complaint over American steel tariffs

The Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) has initiated a dispute settlement procedure with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) against US steel and aluminium import tariffs. In a statement published on Tuesday, SECO announced that a complaint to this effect had been filed with the WTO because Switzerland was one of the countries affected by the additional import tariffs on certain steel and aluminium products into the US.

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Germany alleged to have spied on Swiss firms in Austria

A dozen branches of Swiss firms in Austria were targeted by German spies between 1999 and 2006, according to the SonntagsBlick newspaper which has seen documents belonging to Germany’s federal intelligence service BND. Part of the data was allegedly handed to the United States. The Sunday newspaper said the Swiss firms targeted by German spies in Austria included the pharmaceutical company Sandoz, which belongs to the Novartis Group, the logistics firm Panalpina, and the Zug firm Bossard, which specializes in producing screws, nuts and bolts.

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‘Hidden’ transport costs on the rise

Traffic Jam in Geneva

A government study has found that the so-called ‘external costs’ of various modes of transport collectively increased by almost CHF1 billion during the period 2010-2015. For walkers and cyclists, however, benefits outweigh the costs.

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Thousands of Swiss firms are unregistered

Unlike this company

About 13,000 companies are not listed in the commercial register – a serious problem, notes the Swiss Federal Audit Office. Increased cooperation with the tax authorities could be a solution. On Wednesday the office published an evaluation of how Switzerland has been combating corruption over the past decade – since it’s been following a recommendation of the Council of Europe Group of States against Corruption (GRECO).

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Swiss intercity trains in for a makeover

The Swiss Federal Railways is revamping its intercity IC2000 fleet at a cost of approximately CHF300 million ($302 million). The first completely renovated trains will be put back into operation in early 2019. The 341 wagons should be fit for another 20 years on the rails after their makeover.

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Swiss public broadcaster to phase out 250 jobs

The Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC), swissinfo’s parent company, announced on Thursday a series of belt-tightening measures, including the elimination of 250 full-time positions over the next four years. The SBC is initiating a four-year savings and redeployment programme aimed at saving CHF100 million ($100 million), which will be re-invested across its various business and language units.

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Swiss banking sector continues to shrink but survivors profitable

Switzerland lost a total of nine banks in 2017 bringing the total to 253. Around 20 years ago the country boasted more than 400 banks. According to the annual “Banks in Switzerland” report released by the Swiss National Bank (SNB) on Thursday, only one foreign bank opened a Swiss branch last year. The number of people working for banks also declined. Staff numbers in Switzerland fell by 7.7% to 93,554 full-time equivalents (FTEs).

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Swiss banks urged to step up fight against financial crime

Swiss financial institutions and public authorities must do more to prevent organised crime and money laundering within the financial system, a study by the consulting firm KPMG published on Tuesday has found. The authors of the study called “Clarity on Crime in Financial Services” highlighted several challenges and problems which must be addressed if banks want to successfully prevent and identify criminal financial activities in future.

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Strikes mooted over construction retirement age

Unions on Friday threatened warning strikes for the building sector this autumn if the current retirement age of 60 for construction workers is dropped. At a press conference on Friday, Switzerland’s biggest trade union Unia, and the union Syna called for early retirement, as well as more worker protection and less temporary work on sites.

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Executives still paid exorbitant salaries at big Swiss firms

The gap between the top-paid and least-paid employees of the 39 largest companies in Switzerland remains high, despite a 2013 vote against excessive executive pay. According to Switzerland’s largest trade union, Unia, in 2017 the average ratio between top and bottom in these companies was 1:143.

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Swiss health costs set to exceed CHF10,000 per person

The average Swiss will for the first time spend more than CHF10,000 ($10,159) on health care in 2018 and 2019, according to an economic research institute and think tank. KOF, part of the federal technology institute ETH Zurich, says this is down to the growing economy: the more people earn, the more they spend on their health. It also bases its calculations on the growing proportion of old people in the Swiss population.

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Swiss jobless rate drops to 2.4 percent

The unemployment rate in Switzerland has reached a new nadir – just 2.4%, according to latest official statistics. The number of jobseekers is the lowest since the financial crisis. The statistics, published by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) on Thursday, show that the numbers of unemployed turning up at job centres fell by 9% last month, bringing the overall unemployment rate down from 2.7% to 2.4%.

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Parliament snubs Swiss expat calls for better banking ties

The Swiss Abroad community has suffered a new setback in its efforts to receive improved access to banking services in Switzerland. The House of Representatives on Tuesday threw out a call on the government to ease the financial woes of expatriates by publishing relevant information on the websites of the foreign ministry and Switzerland’s diplomatic representations abroad for the Swiss overseas communities.

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PostFinance Еxpected to Axe 500 Jobs

Post Finance external link, one of Switzerland’s leading financial institutions, expects to cut up to 500 full-time jobs by the end of 2020. The banking division of the Post Office has launched multiple measures to counter the erosion of profit margins and the resulting decline in revenues.

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Slowdown in Middle Eastern tourists to Switzerland

After almost tripling in the last decade, the number of tourists to Switzerland from the Middle East is slowing down, with the slowdown expected to be particularly marked this summer. The growth rate of tourists from the Gulf will be zero this summer, according to forecasts by Oxford Economics and the Swiss tourist board.

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Over 1,000 jobs threatened by OVS liquidation

The Sempione Retail company, owner of the OVS fashion stores in Switzerland, has begun bankruptcy proceedings. Some 140 outlets will close their doors, with 1,150 workers affected. The Italian clothes brand announced in a statement on Wednesday evening that it had reached a financial dead-end.

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Swiss Bank to Drop Iranian Business

A Swiss lender is suspending new transactions with Iran following US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Tehran. Banque de Commerce et de Placements (BCP)external link announced on Tuesday that it was wrapping up its activity in Iran in response to the US pulling out of the Iranian nuclear accord earlier this month.

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Nestlé to cut up to 500 jobs in Switzerland

Swiss food giant Nestlé plans to cut as many as 500 computer-service jobs in Switzerland as part of a restructuring plan to increase profitability, the company announced on Tuesday. Nestlé will be outsourcing the IT jobs to Spain, according to a press releaseexternal link published on the company’s website.

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Crowdfunding Platforms Boom in Switzerland

Swiss crowdfunding platforms dealt with CHF375 million ($377 million) in 2017, almost three times as much as the previous year. Some 160,000 people supported a crowdfunding project. Over the past eight years, more than half a billion francs have been collected via the “swarm-based form of financing”, said the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts on Monday.

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Record restaurant closures blamed on strong franc

More than three times as many pubs and restaurants disappeared in Switzerland last year as the year before. The catering industry points the finger at the strong franc, responsible for more bankruptcies (+4.4%) and fewer new openings (-25%).

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Switzerland Remains in Top Five for Competitiveness Despite Fall

Switzerland has dropped from second to fifth place in an annual ranking of the world’s most competitive economies, whilst the United States have moved up three places to the top. Switzerland’s fall is due mainly to “a slowdown in exports, job growth and international investment”, says the Lausanne-based IMD business schoolexternal link, which compiles the 63-country ranking.

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Swiss pharma suspected of delaying generic competition

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published Thursday a list of pharmaceutical companies that include Basel-based Novartis and Roche, all of which are suspected of hindering the development of generic versions of their own medicines. Over 150 complaints were filed.

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Alpine tunnel closure causes major holiday traffic disruption

Traffic queues of up to 28 kilometres were reported at the northern entrance to the Gotthard tunnel on Saturday, owing to a long weekend and the closure of another major Alpine road tunnel because of a fire. The San Bernadino tunnel in southeast Switzerland was closed on Friday afternoon after a German tourist bus caught fire in the tunnel, leaving two people with minor injuries. It is expected to remain closed over the Pentecost weekend, since the tunnel needs to cool down and be checked for any infrastructure damage.

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Rapid escalation in Swiss fines for freight trucks

An increasing number of heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) are being pulled over for motoring offences at border crossings. Customs officials have reported 83% more violations in the last eight years, rising from 17,997 on 2010 to 32,967 last year. A further 24,464 fines and cautions were issued against HGVs according to the SonntagsZeitung newspaper.

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Government defends Swiss Post-Amazon deal

The government has defended the deal struck that will see Swiss Post delivering packages for retail giant Amazon. There is no question of preferential treatment, it said. The response by the government came in response to a parliamentary question raised by politician Olivier Feller (Liberal-Radical), querying the deal that will see Swiss Post delivering Amazon packages within a time frame of 24 hours.

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Swiss median monthly wage exceeds CHF6,500 ($6,506)

A government survey analysing wage structures in the Alpine nation found that the median salary for a full-time job in 2016 was CHF6,502 ($6,509) for the entire Swiss economy. The bottom 10% of Swiss earners had a salary of less than CHF4,313 ($4,317), while the best paid 10% earned more than CHF11,406 ($11,418) a month.

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Swiss share tax data with 41 nations

For the first time, Switzerland’s Federal Tax Administration (FTA) has sent details on advance tax rulings to its partners in the spontaneous exchange of information deal. The FTA announced on Tuesdayexternal link that it had transmitted a first batch of 82 reports to a total of 41 states, including Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Russia. Some reports were exchanged with several partner countries.

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Swiss unemployment lower than it’s been in years

The Swiss unemployment rate was 2.7% in April – a level last seen in July 2012. Last month, 119,781 people were registered as without work in Switzerland – 10,632 fewer than the previous month. This brought the overall unemployment rate down from 2.9% in March to 2.7% in April, reported the State Secretariat for Economic Affairsexternal link on Tuesday.

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Swiss economics minister upbeat about Mercosur free trade deal

Switzerland is close to concluding a free trade agreement with the four Mercosur countries – Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay – within the framework of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), Swiss Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann told reporters in Bern following his South America visit. Schneider-Ammann has just returned from a seven-day visit to the four South American countries, accompanied by 50-strong delegation of Swiss business leaders and politicians, aimed at convincing both sides of the benefits of a common trade agreement.

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Switzerland remains top international wealth management hub

Switzerland remains the world’s largest wealth management centre for international assets, but the air is getting thinner at the top and other financial hubs are gaining ground, according to a global report. A total of $1.84 trillion (CHF1.85 billion) of international assets were managed in Switzerland at the end of 2017, says the latest Deloitte Wealth Management Centre Rankingexternal link, published on Friday. This is around 7% less than in 2010.

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International trade unionists stage Glencore demo

On Wednesday, some 40 trade union members from as far as Australia and Africa protested the Swiss-based commodities giant’s treatment of workers. The demonstration took place on the occasion of Glencore’s annual general assembly in Zug, and included protestors from Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Canada, Australia, as well as other countries, according to a statementexternal link (in French) by Swiss trade union Unia.

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Nestlé and Starbucks agree million-dollar tie-up

The Swiss food giant Nestlé is set to pay Starbucks $7.1 billion (CHF7.1 billion) to market the American firm’s products outside Starbucks’ coffee shops. Under the alliance deal, announced on Monday, Starbucks and Nestlé have agreed to work together on marketing strategies and innovation.

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Thousands of Swiss take to streets to mark May Day

Workers and activists have been celebrating May Day in Switzerland with rallies in numerous cities urging their government to address employment issues, such as equal pay. Around 50 rallies and events are planned across Switzerland. On Tuesday morning, 13,000 took part in a demonstration in Zurich city centre. Other major rallies were held in Basel in the morning, and in Bern and Geneva in the afternoon.

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Demand for organic food grows strongly in Switzerland

One in ten fresh food items sold in Switzerland last year was organic, according to the Federal Office for Agriculture. The market share of organic products rose from 4.6% in 2007 to 9% in 2017, while the share of fresh organic food sold in Switzerland rose from just under 6% to 11.5% over the same period, the agriculture office reported on Tuesday.

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Unions seek to blacklist Swiss firms that underpay women

The workers’ union umbrella group Travail Suisse is calling for the introduction of a blacklist to shame Swiss companies that fail to pay women and men equally. This is one of 28 recommendations which feature in a position paper published by Travail Suisse external linkon Monday, on the eve of International Workers’ Day.

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French strike limits rail links with Switzerland

Rail services between Switzerland and France are limited on Saturday, owing to a strike by French workers against railway reforms. Most high-speed train (TGV) services have been cancelled, with the exception of six return journeys between Paris and Zurich (2), Paris and Geneva (2) and Paris and Lausanne. A similar service is planned for Sunday.

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One in four Swiss tenants wants to move, but can’t

More than a quarter of tenants in Switzerland are unhappy with their accommodation, but are unable to move – especially for financial reasons. A survey published by online price comparison portal comparis.chexternal link on Thursday has found that 26% of Swiss tenants consider their housing situation to be unsatisfactory. Of the 4,000 tenants surveyed, 67% said that they could not afford to move to a better place.

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Swiss travel and watch firms named best places to work

Swiss International Air Lines has been ranked as the most attractive employer in a survey on the 150 largest companies in Switzerland. Zurich Airport came in second, followed by watchmaker Patek Philippe. The survey, published by Dutch recruitment agency Randstadexternal link on Thursday, asked 4,800 people aged 18-65 where they would like to work.

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Swiss authorities allowed isopropanol exports to Syria

Switzerland authorised the export to Syria of five metric tons of the chemical isopropanol in 2014, which can be used to make sarin gas, Swiss public television, RTS, reports. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) announced in May 2014 that Syria had destroyed its stock of 120 metric tons of isopropanol.

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Swiss finance minister sees ‘clearly improved’ ties with US

Relations between Switzerland and the United States have improved under the Trump administration, Finance Minister Ueli Maurer told Swiss public radio, SRF, on Saturday. Maurer is heading a Swiss delegationexternal link, together with Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann and Thomas Jordan, Chairman of the Swiss National Bank, which is attending the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank Group spring meetingsexternal link in Washington from April 20-22.

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