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Swatch plunges into loss on virus hit

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Zurich, Jan 28 (AFP/APP): Swiss watch giant Swatch Group said Thursday it suffered a net loss of 53 million Swiss frances (49 million euros) last year as the coronavirus ravaged the global economy.

Sales were down more than 32 percent at 5.5 billion Swiss francs, short of analyst forecasts compiled by the AWP agency for 5.8 billion Swiss francs. In 2019, the company, famous for its trendy multi-colour plastic watches, had posted a profit of 748 million Swiss francs.

Swatch said the pandemic slashed sales by more than 43 percent in the first quarter last year as the authorities imposed a sharp lockdown to try and curb the spread of the virus. As restrictions were subsequently eased, sales picked up again but remained well below normal levels, with business in tourist hotspots and airports hit badly.

Swatch said it closed 384 outlets over the course of the year, with Hong Kong especially hard hit, falling from 92 in 2019 to 38 last year. For this year, the company said it hopes sales will recover to close to 2019 levels as the economy stabilises, citing China’s example.

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