Richemont sees luxury-goods sales slip, outlook cautious

Richemont sees luxury-goods sales slip, outlook cautiousGeneva  - Swiss luxury goods group Richemont SA said Wednesday that in the five months to August, sales fell 16 per cent below the same period in 2008.

Richemont, the second largest luxury goods company in the world, is the owner of brands like Cartier, Chloe, Montblanc and Piaget.

WHO safety report maps out the world's deadliest roads

WHO safety report maps out the world's deadliest roadsGeneva  - The most dangerous place in the world to travel on roads is in the impoverished East African state of Eritrea, says the World Health Organisation (WHO) in its first report on global road safety.

To identify the most hazardous roads, WHO experts sifted through a mass of data which showed that around 1.3 million people are killed each year on the world's highways. A further 20 to 50 million people sustain non-fatal injuries.

World Economic Forum ranks Switzerland most competitive economy

World Economic Forum ranks Switzerland most competitive economyGeneva  - Switzerland on Tuesday replaced the United States in the top place in the World Economic Forum (WEF) ranking of most competitive countries for doing business.

"The United States falls one place to second position, with weakening in its financial markets and macroeconomic stability," the Geneva-based foundation said.

Singapore, Sweden and Denmark rounded out the first five, followed by Finland, Germany and Japan, which moved up one place. Canada and the Netherlands closed the top 10.

Swiss housing sector shows declines in Q2

Swiss housing sector shows declines in Q2 Geneva - Construction of new Swiss homes in the second quarter this year fell by 10 per cent compared to the same period in 2008, official data released Monday showed.

In total, 9,520 new homes were built in Switzerland in the second trimester, the Federal Office of Statistics said. There were 63,020 homes under construction, a 6.5 per cent increase year-on-year.

The decline was particularly felt in small towns and villages in the Alpine land.

In terms of building permits, the federal office said the second quarter saw a similar amount to the number issued last year. (dpa)

Switzerland deep in cat and mouse game with Libya

Hans-Rudolph MerzGeneva  - The day came and went, but the result from the timeline Switzerland's president promised for the return of two nationals being held in Libya to the Alpine land never happened.

After the president, Hans-Rudolph Merz, issued an apology to Libya for the arrest of Moamer Gaddafi's son and daughter-in-law in Geneva last summer, the two Swiss businessmen being held in Tripoli were expected to be put on a plane back home by September 1.

Russia, US to resume START negotiations this month

Russia, US to resume START negotiations this month Geneva - Russian and United States delegates would meet in Geneva later this month for talks on a follow-up treaty to a soon-to-expire Cold War era nuclear stockpile reduction agreement, officials said Friday.

Officials at the US mission in Geneva, confirming a Russian announcment, said the sixth round of arms reduction negotiations would take place on September 21.

The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty will expire in December, and both sides, describing the talks as moving positively, have been working to agree on terms for a new one.

WHO: Swine flu "predominant" flu virus

WHO: Swine flu "predominant" flu virusGeneva - Swine flu, according to the latest data, is the main type of influenza being transmitted globally, the World Health Organization said Friday.

"Pandemic (H1N1) influenza virus continues to be the predominant circulating virus of influenza, both in the northern and southern hemisphere," the WHO reported, using the technical name for the disease.

In Japan, influenza activity was increasing past the seasonal epidemic threshold, "indicating an early beginning to the annual influenza season," the status update said.

UN's Ban "very concerned" for Sri Lankan refugees

UN's Ban "very concerned" for Sri Lankan refugeesGeneva - The 250,000 Tamils displaced in Sri Lanka face a deteriorating humanitarian situation as the monsoon season approaches, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday.

"What I am concerned (about is) that conditions have not improved," Ban said, speaking about the camps where the displaced were being held.

Swiss negotiate with Goggle over Street View

GoogleGeneva  - Google Inc met Wednesday with Swiss governmental officials in order to sort out privacy issues the company's Street View programme has raised in the Alpine land.

According to a statement from the Swiss Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Information, Google representatives presented proposals for improvements to Street View, particularly in regards to issues like people's faces and license plates.

Sensitive sites in Switzerland, including international organizations in Geneva, can be seen on the service, but it blocks zooming in for close-up snapshots.

Liechtenstein and Germany sign tax deal

OecdGeneva - Liechtenstein and Germany signed Wednesday a new taxation agreement, based on transparency principles that will allow exchanges of information.

Liechtenstein, an Alpine principality nestled between Switzerland and Austria, pledged earlier this year to relax its tight banking secrecy laws and better cooperate on cross-border taxation issues.

Prime Minister Klaus Tschütscher and the German ambassador to Vaduz, Axel Berg, signed the Tax Information Exchange Agreement between the two countries, the government of Liechtenstein said in a statement.

The deal had been initialed last month.

UN: Poor need 500 billion-plus a year to adapt to climate change

UN: Poor need 500 billion-plus a year to adapt to climate change Geneva - Calling the currently allocated funds "woefully inadequate", a new United Nations report released Tuesday says rich countries should send 500 to 600 billion dollars a year to poorer nations for mitigation and adaptation to climate change.

The World Economic and Social Survey for 2009 says a global investment programme is needed to balance economic growth with environmentally sustainable development plans reliant on clean energies.

Lonza’s Singapore facility to be purchased by Roche subsidiary

Roche-GenentechLonza's cell culture biologic manufacturing facility in Singapore is to be bought by Roche subsidiary Genentech Singapore, declared Swiss drugmaker Roche and drugs industry supplier Lonza on Monday.

The facility carries a purchase price of $290 million plus up to a further $70 million in milestone payments. The facility would also be merged with Genentech Singapore's existing biologic manufacturing plant.

The transaction resulted largely due to Genentech Singapore exercising an option to purchase the facility.

Swiss GDP falls 0.3 per cent in second quarter

Swiss GDP falls 0.3 per cent in second quarterGeneva  - Switzerland's real gross domestic product (GDP) shrank by 0.3 per cent in the second quarter of the year, compared with the previous quarter.

When compared with the same quarter of 2008, there was a 2-per- cent fall in GDP, according to the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).

The fall was less than many economists had expected.

Trade in goods contributed to stability, as the fall in imports was greater than that of exports, SECO reported.

US files for disclosure of 4,500 Swiss accounts

UBSGeneva  - The US tax agency on Monday filed with Swiss authorities for administrative assistance on information related to 4,500 bank accounts, following a deal reached between the two governments earlier this month.

The out-of-court settlement required that the country's largest bank UBS AG hand over to US authorities information on accounts that are believed to belong to clients who hid their assets from the Internal Revenue Service to avoid paying taxes. Swiss confidentiality laws generally mandate that banks are not allowed to divulge client information.

Bolt edges Powell to win in Zurich

Usain BoltZurich  - Usain Bolt beat fellow Jamaican Asafa Powell to win the 100 metres at the Golden League meeting in Zurich Friday in 9.81 seconds.

The world and Olympic champion, who set a world record 9.58 seconds 12 days earlier in Berlin, appeared to ease up as he crossed the line.

Bolt and Powell were neck-and-neck over 70 metres but Bolt powered ahead over the last 30 metres, leaving Powell - who had equalled a then-world record of 9.77 in Zurich three years - second on 9.89.  (dpa)

Isinbayeva sets pole vault world record

Yelena IsinbayevaZurich  - Russian Yelena Isinbayeva set a world record 5 metres 6 centimetres in the women's pole vault at the Golden League meeting in Zurich on Friday.

Isinbayeva, who did not clear a height when failing to win a third successive title at the world championships in Berlin, stays on course for at least a share of the Golden League 1-million-dollar jackpot. (dpa)

WHO official: Swine flu death toll reaches 2,185

WHO official: Swine flu death toll reaches 2,185Geneva  - Around the world at least 2,185 people have died from swine flu, an official from the World Health Organization said Friday.

Spokesman Gregory Hartl said the latest figure "understates" the total number of deaths from the A(H1N1) pandemic.

Health officials have said that while the virus was still spreading rapidly and widely, the disease is generally mild, and most people infected make a complete recovery within several days.

Hartl noted that it would be "unwise" to try to estimate the exact mortality rates from the virus.

Swiss jet departs Libya without detained nationals

Swiss jet departs Libya without detained nationalsGeneva  - The jet dispatched earlier this week by the Swiss government to collect two of its citizens detained in Libya for over a year, left early Friday without the men, as the saga refused to reach a conclusion.

In a short and terse statement, the Swiss Federal Department of Finance said the "preparations for their return are continuing," but added no details.

"The plane is required elsewhere," the statement read. The jet had landed in Tripoli on Tuesday, with the apparent intention of bringing the two Swiss home.

IATA: Demand for air travel, freight improving, but revenues down

IATA: Demand for air travel, freight improving, but revenues downGeneva  - Drops in demand for air travel were slowing in July, the International Air Travel Association reported Thursday, but said the bottom line of many airlines was still being hit hard.

Data showed passenger demand declined 2.9 per cent last month, compared to the same period in 2008. Meanwhile freight demand was down 11.3 per cent.

Both figures were improvement from earlier this year. In the first half, passenger demand dropped 6.8 per cent and freight plunged 19.3 per cent on average, year-on-year.

Liechtenstein's banks report profits despite outflows

Liechtenstein's banks report profits despite outflowsGeneva- Two of Liechtenstein's major banks on Thursday reported profits in the first half of the year, even as money continued to flow out of their wealth management divisions.

LGT Group, owned by the Alpine principality, reported profit of 94 million Swiss francs (87.87 million dollars), down 24 per cent compared to the same period last year. Nonetheless, the figures showed a marked improvement over the final months of 2008.

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