| KONOLFINGEN, Switzerland, Sept 1
KONOLFINGEN, Switzerland, Sept 1 Nestle SA
, the world's biggest food group, said it would
continue to invest in its home country Switzerland, although the
strong franc made it less attractive.
"There are lots of discussions at the moment about the
crisis in Europe, weak consumer confidence and the strong Swiss
franc. There are many reasons to feel uncertain but even in a
region like Europe it is still possible to grow," Chief
Executive Paul Bulcke said as he opened a factory near Bern.
Asked whether the company would postpone or even cancel
investment projects in Switzerland because of the franc, Bulcke
said: "Saying the Swiss franc has no impact at all would be
wrong. But as a global company, we have a natural hedge.
"It is not the Swiss franc that is strong, it is all others
that are weak, shame on them. But one day, I hope, rationality
will come back," he said, adding Nestle was investing for the
Nestle on Thursday inaugurated a new production unit in
Konolfingen, the site of its oldest factory, where it will
produce probiotic infant formulas for its nutrition business.
"The Swiss franc is obviously not helping Nestle for its
production in Switzerland," Bulcke said, repeating the currency
only had a limited impact on Nestle operating performance.
The franc has soared against the euro and dollar in recent
months, prompting the Swiss National Bank to flood the market
with franc liquidity in a bid to stem the rise of the currency
that makes Swiss exports more expensive abroad.
Two thirds of the products made in Nestle's 10 Swiss
factories are exported to the euro zone and the franc is making
it more difficult to stay competitive, said Eugenio Simioni,
head of Nestle Switzerland, adding that innovation capacity and
quality of service were helping compensate.
Nestle has invested 400 million francs ($496 million) in
Konolfingen over the last four years and doubled the number of
jobs to 770.
Nestle's nutrition business generates about 90 percent of
its sales from baby formula and Bulcke said the group was
interested in buys for the unit that had sales of 10.4 billion
francs last year.
He declined comment on possible interest in Pfizer's
Wyeth baby formula business, which is up for sale and could be
worth up to $10 billion.
($1 = 0.806 franc)
(Editing by David Holmes)