Swiss central bank posts 13.5B francs profit

Switzerland’s central bank says it has posted a higher-than-expected annual profit of 13.5 billion Swiss francs ($14.75 billion) for 2011.
The Swiss National Bank says gains from interest on foreign currency holdings and rising gold prices contributed to the turnaround. Last year, it posted an equivalent 19.2 billion francs loss.
Switzerland’s federal government in Bern and the 26 cantons (states) will share 1 billion francs of the profits.
The central bank has been using its vast reserves to prevent the exchange rate of the euro from falling below 1.20 Swiss francs.
Swiss exporters have called for the euro floor to be raised above 1.40 francs.

Chow Tai Fook sees steady growth for affordable jewelry in China
Chow Tai Fook Jewelry Group Ltd. expects sales of its accessibly priced gold rings and bracelets to continue to rise as it opens more than 500 stores in the next four years in greater China even as economic growth slows.
“We’re still quite positive,” Alan Chan, the Hong Kong-based jeweler’s director of group branding, said in an interview in Paris. “Jewelry demand is growing steadily.”
China is targeting 7.5 percent economic expansion for 2012, slower than an 8 percent goal in place since 2005, as Europe’s debt crisis and a sluggish recovery in the U.S. hold back demand for goods from the world’s largest exporter. Higher-end luxury- sales growth in China has eased to as little as 15 percent from 70 percent as consumers switch to cheaper items, Swatch Group AG Chief Executive Officer Nick Hayek said March 1.
Chow Tai Fook, the world’s largest listed jewelry retailer, gets more than 70 percent of sales from products in a price range of HK$2,000 ($250) to HK$100,000, according to Chan. The items “are things that the general public can afford, and we are going after this segment,” he said.
More than half the jeweler’s sales come from gold products, Chan said. “Demand is very stable in that respect.”

U.S. to sell $6 billion of AIG shares at $29 each to reduce bailout stake
The U.S. Treasury Department is selling $6 billion in shares of American International Group Inc., the insurer that was rescued in 2008 after it suffered losses tied to wrong-way bets on the mortgage market. AIG plans to purchase as much as $3 billion of the sale, the Treasury said yesterday in a statement.
The department sold 200 million shares of New York-based AIG in May, cutting its stake to 77 percent. A rebounding economy and climbing stock markets are allowing Treasury to unwind bailouts from 2008 and designed to prevent a collapse of the banking system and protect jobs.
The government still owns a majority stake in Ally Financial Inc., after divesting holdings in banks including Citigroup Inc. and lowering its investment in General Motors Co.

Enel reduces dividend
payout ratio to 40%, freeing up funds to reduce debt
Enel SpA, Italy´s biggest energy company, cut its dividend payout by a third to 40 percent of ordinary net income as it seeks to raise funds to cut debt, with recessions in its biggest markets weighing on revenue. Net income fell to 4.billion euros ($5.47 billion) from 4.4 billion euros a year earlier, hurt by a windfall-profit tax imposed in Italy, the company said today in a statement.
The Rome- based company, Europe´s most-indebted power utility, scrapped a 2012 interim dividend on Jan. 31 as it focused on refinancing borrowings. Net financial debt was 44.6 billion euros at the end of 2011, compared with 44.9 billion euros a year earlier.
“The weakened economic environment in the mature economies in which we operate is expected to persist, at least during the first part of 2012,” Chief Executive Officer Fulvio Conti said in the statement. “Although this shows signs of recovery from 2013 onwards.”