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Nestlé headquarters in Vevey, on Lake Geneva (in new window)

Nestlé headquarters in Vevey, on Lake Geneva© Nestlé S.A.

Most businesses are small or medium-sized. According to the 2008 business census, more than 99% of enterprises had fewer than 250 full-time workers, employing about two-thirds of the total work force.

The largest company is Nestlé, the biggest food company in the world. It has around 278,000 employees, about 97% of them outside Switzerland (2009).

In 2010, 15 Swiss firms, including the pharmaceutical giant Novartis (No. 160) featured on the “Fortune Global 500”, an annual ranking of the 500 most powerful corporations which is compiled by the eponymous American business magazine.

Many companies are still in the hands of families who founded them. However, a survey conducted in 2002 showed the impact of globalisation on large firms: it found 40% of board members and 26% of managers were non-Swiss, mostly from Germany, the UK and France. However, there were still few foreign managers in medium and small businesses.

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