GRENCHEN, Switzerland (Reuters) - Swatch UHR.VX has published a version of its annual report in the Swiss-German dialect for which there is no standard written form, the latest act of rebellion from the watchmaker which has long enjoyed provoking the Swiss business establishment.
The move to publish in dialect rather than standard German - one of Switzerland’s four official languages including French and Italian in which the report was also issued - was meant to underpin Swatch Group SA’s Swiss roots and values, Chief Executive Nick Hayek told a media conference.
It results in a succession of spelling changes, such as geschaeftsjahr or results year becoming gschaeftsjohr and ausblick or outlook becoming usblick, giving approximations of the language familiar to inhabitants of Swiss-German parts of the country.
Explaining the move, Swatch Chairwoman Nayla Hayek - Nick’s sister - said in her letter to shareholders: “This act of true Swissness was done partly to shake up our compatriots who - in their fondness for what is safe - sometimes allow themselves to follow a rather conventional, prudent and comfortable path.”
The move highlights an increased awareness among Swiss companies of the cachet attached to Swiss-made products, while also being intended by the company to cement its reputation as a corporate “enfant terrible” in Switzerland, where a sober or staid tone dominates most parts of business and finance.
Swatch, which said on Wednesday it had reached an undisclosed agreement in a long-running dispute over the supply of watch movements to third parties, has also long made known its distaste for the quarterly reporting cycle which dominates investor expectations, arguing instead in favour of a more long-term view.
CEO Hayek used Swatch’s annual press conference to chide financial journalists for focusing on stock market prices, and doled out criticism of short-sellers and financial instruments such as collateralised debt obligations.
Eschewing typical CEO behaviour, Hayek, a former helicopter pilot, lit up a cigar during the media conference while he passed on a question about a Swiss anti-trust probe to Swatch’s chief lawyer.
Hayek said Swatch, which beat expectations with a 14 percent rise in sales to 8.14 billion Swiss francs (5.8 billion pounds) last year, is eyeing 9 billion this year but stopped short of defining that number as a target.
“I‘m not going to deny we’re looking at that as potential, but it’s not a target,” he said. “If you’re looking for a juicy story, just write we’re going to generate growth in 2013 and invest our profits in creating jobs and new products.”
Editing by David Holmes