Swatch buys Swiss case maker, boosts production

ZURICH Thu Apr 12, 2012 8:26am EDT

People walk past a a Swatch watch store at the Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich February 8, 2011. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

People walk past a a Swatch watch store at the Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich February 8, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Arnd Wiegmann

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ZURICH (Reuters) - Swatch Group (UHR.VX), the world's largest watchmaker, is buying high-end watch case maker Simon Et Membrez for an undisclosed sum, the group said on Thursday, in a move that will boost its own production division.

Swatch Group, best known for its plastic Swatch watches, owns several other brands, such as Omega, and has worked closely with Simon Et Membrez on its Breguet and Blancpain marques.

"Simon Et Membrez SA is a seamless fit alongside the existing Swatch Group production companies and logically complements Comadur, Ruedin and Lascor, the companies active in the production of watch casings within the Swatch Group," Swatch Group said in a statement.

Simon Et Membrez, which was founded in 1975 by Rene Simon and Etienne Membrez, the father of the current CEO, has 250 employees. It will continue to trade under the Simon Et Membrez name and will also still supply third parties.

Simon Et Membrez has a modern machinery pool at its new plant in Delemont.

Swatch Group, which supplies watch components and movements to most Swiss watchmakers, is also buying a 60 percent stake in the related case polishing company Termiboites SA, which has 50 employees.

"We presume the business has sales of 100 million Swiss francs with third party sales, to non Swatch Group brands, of 50 million francs," Kepler Capital Markets analyst Jon Cox said in a note.

Swatch Group's shares were trading 0.9 percent firmer versus a 0.4 percent rise in the STOXX European personal and household goods index .SXQP at 0855 GMT.

Vontobel analyst Rene Weber said he expected more consolidation in the Swiss watch industry, adding Swatch was well positioned to snap up rivals thanks to its 2.1 billion francs net cash.

(Reporting by Katie Reid; Editing by Mark Potter)

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