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Swiss business lobby heads quit after pay vote debacle


* Swiss voters backed controls on executive pay in March* Discord unusual in Swiss business elite* Swiss watch federation quit Economiesuisse in FebruaryZURICH, June 19 The two heads of the main Swiss business lobby Economiesuisse announced on Wednesday they were both stepping down after the organisation came under heavy fire over its failed campaign to oppose strict controls on executive pay.

Economiesuisse said in a statement that Rudolf Wehrli, who only took over as president in October, would step down at the end of August as he did not have enough time to devote to the task of overhauling the lobby group. Chairman Pascal Gentinetta is leaving immediately due to differences of opinion about the strategic direction of the organisation, Economiesuisse said, adding that chief economist Rudolf Minsch would take over his role on an interim basis.

The group said it was working on a review of its priorities and structures, including aiming to improve its campaigning activities and strengthening its communication with the public, political parties and other decision makers.

The departures illustrate a level of infighting that is unusual among the usually close-knit Swiss business elite. Economiesuisse represents 100,000 companies from all sectors employing 2 million people. Economiesuisse had campaigned heavily against proposals adopted by a large majority of Swiss voters in a referendum in March to force listed companies to give shareholders a binding vote on compensation. It was accused of scaremongering after warning of an exodus of multinationals from Switzerland if the plan was adopted. It also commissioned a film, eventually scrapped, that suggested the proposal could plunge the country into civil strife.

Takeover deadline extended for islamic bank of britain


Dec 16 Islamic Bank of Britain (IBB), the country's only sharia-compliant retail lender, said a deadline for a Qatari bank to decide on a proposed takeover offer had been extended to January. IBB is majority-owned by Qatar International Islamic Bank , which has been in discussions since June with Qatari lender Masraf Al Rayan to sell a controlling stake in the British bank. A deadline for Masraf, the biggest Islamic bank in Qatar, to announce a firm intention to make an offer for IBB lapsed on Dec. 10; it has now been extended to Jan. 7.

In a separate statement released last week, IBB also said its lending growth for the first nine months of this year had been driven by two new home financing plans, and that it would look at ways to offer more products.

IBB is trying to revitalise its business after struggling to turn a profit since its inception in 2004; it reported a loss of 8.9 million pounds ($14.3 million) in 2011. Management will focus on secured financing and targeting young savers, Iain Crawford, financial controller at IBB, told Reuters. "We are pretty optimistic for the UK market. The board is determined to grow the business."

IBB posted a 63 percent increase in home financing and a 43 percent increase in long-term savings deposits for the first nine months of 2012, the company said without giving monetary totals. According to its 2011 annual report, income from home purchase plans rose 17.9 percent to 2.3 million pounds that year, while customer deposits of over one year's maturity jumped to 25.9 million pounds from 3.3 million pounds in 2010.