Swiss Stocks Advance as Nobel Biocare, Novartis, Swatch Climb

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Swiss stocks climbed as health-care companies rose and European finance ministers discussed channeling funding through the International Monetary Fund.

Nobel Biocare AG, the second-biggest maker of dental implants, led a rally in health-care companies, gaining 2.4 percent. Novartis AG rose 1.5 percent. Swatch Group AG, the world’s largest watchmaker, added 1.5 percent after Kepler Capital Markets SA raised its price estimate for the stock.

The Swiss Market Index, a measure of Switzerland’s biggest and most actively traded companies, added 0.6 percent to 5,767.98 at the close in Zurich. The benchmark measure has still declined 10 percent this year as the euro area’s sovereign-debt crisis spread. The broader Swiss Performance Index increased 0.5 percent today.

“While appreciating the risk, investors still hope that a solution will be put in place for the European debt crisis,” said Henk Potts, an equity strategist at Barclays Wealth in London, which oversees $239 billion. “You should be positioned for any upside surprises. There is still quite a lot to be optimistic about. The corporate picture is still very bright and economic growth could kick back.”

Fitch reduced its outlook for France’s credit grade to negative from stable on Dec. 16, saying the budget deficit and government borrowings make it more vulnerable to the region’s debt crisis than other top-rated euro-area countries. Fitch also put the grades of nations including Spain and Italy on review for a downgrade, citing Europe’s failure to find a “comprehensive solution.”

Euro-Area Ministers

Euro-area finance ministers held a conference call today to discuss channeling 200 billion euros ($261 billion) in additional funding through the International Monetary Fund and the mechanics of a so-called fiscal compact that were agreed upon in the Dec. 9 European Union summit accord, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Nobel Biocare climbed 2.4 percent to 10.26 Swiss francs after SonntagsZeitung reported that the board of directors may disagree on an approach made by the venture-capital firm Bain Capital LLC, without saying where it got the information.

Nobel Biocare’s board met on Nov. 16 to discuss the initial approach by Bain Capital, which was first reported on Oct. 24, and may be at odds over how to proceed, the Zurich-based newspaper said yesterday. Nobel may be the target of a leveraged buyout, the newspaper said. While some Nobel board members consider approving an in-depth audit by Bain Capital, others insist that the company can achieve its potential without external assistance, according to the newspaper.

Nestle, Swatch Rise

Nestle SA, the world’s biggest food company, gained 2 percent to 52.20 francs as Alex Molloy, an analyst at Credit Suisse Group AG, resumed coverage of the stock with a “neutral” rating and a price estimate of 58 francs. Novartis added 1.5 percent to 52.80 francs. The companies make up about 44 percent of the SMI.

Swatch gained 1.5 percent to 328.60 francs after Jon Cox, an analyst at Kepler Capital Markets, raised his price estimate for the stock to 425 francs from 400 francs. He expects Swatch to “win more market share than normal in 2012,” he wrote in an e-mail.

Acino Holding AG, a maker of generic drugs, jumped 4 percent to 94 francs, its biggest rally since Oct. 26, after the company said it signed a deal with Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. to buy Mepha Pharma AG’s Latin America and Asia business for 94 million euros.

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