Swisscom Gains as Swiss Vote Against Top Management Pay Capby
Country votes against new rules for government-owned companies
Relief for carrier facing stiff competition, price pressure
Swisscom AG rose in Zurich trading after Switzerland voted against curbing executive pay and adding profit-limiting rules at government-owned companies including the country’s biggest phone carrier.
Shares of the provider of landline, wireless and Internet services rose as much as 2.3 percent to the highest level in a month and were up 1.1 percent to 483.8 francs at 11:32 a.m. local time.
Voters dismissed on Sunday the “Pro Service Public” initiative, designed to improve public services. The measure would have limited salaries at state-controlled companies including Swisscom and banned cross-subsidization between such firms and stopped them from making a profit from basic services.
The result is a relief for a company battling increased competition in its domestic market. Swisscom, which competes with Sunrise Communications Group AG and billionaire Xavier Niel’s Salt, cut its cost targets after missing profit estimates for 2015. It warned price pressure may continue to erode revenue even as the company is increasing spending in network expansion.
“Swisscom’s problems are not over, but one big uncertainty was removed,” Panagiotis Spiliopoulos, an analyst at Vontobel Holding AG, said by phone. “The market is obviously relieved and there’s still some room to go,” said Spiliopoulos, who predicts the stock will “eventually” reach 500 francs again.
Investor concerns about cooling sales and profit had mounted before the referendum, pushing the shares close to their lowest since 2013. They had lost 4.9 percent this year through last week.
Shares of rival Sunrise rose as much as 1.6 percent. Before today, they had lost 12 percent from a March high as concerns mounted Swisscom may cut prices, adding to competitive pressures.
“People were fearing that if Swisscom needs to lower prices that would affect the other market players,” Spiliopoulos said.
The Swiss government sold Swisscom shares to the public in 1998, when it opened the country’s telecommunications market to competition. It has retained a majority stake ever since and currently has 51 percent.
“The No vote is a vote in favor of modern public services” and allows Swisscom to “compete successfully,” the company said in a statement welcoming the outcome.
Plebiscites are a key feature of Switzerland’s political system and are typically held four times a year. The current referendum followed a 2013 vote that introduced some of the toughest rules on executive pay.