swissworld.org - Switzerland's official information portal

swissworld.org - Switzerland's official information portal

Your Gateway to Switzerland

Trading companies

Switzerland is home to a number of large international trading companies, whose business consists of buying commodities and selling them on to third parties. The commodities themselves, principally cereals, sugar, cotton, oil and gas, never enter Switzerland. These companies are not listed on the stock exchange.

The trading companies often make an important contribution to the local economy, providing employment and paying taxes.

Canton Zug

The largest trading company is Glencore International, based in Zug, which was named in a survey issued in 2006 as the company with the largest turnover in Switzerland, and the sixth largest in Europe.

Canton Zug is one of the main Swiss centres for trading companies.

Geneva

In Europe Geneva is second only to London for the importance of its international trading and shipping businesses, with some 350 enterprises providing about 5000 jobs. In 2006 the international trading and shipping community of Geneva set up an association to look after their interests.

Lugano

In this specific context, Lugano also achieved an essential role – especially as regards steel, base metals, carbon and in part, also soft commodities. The most important brands of the global textile sector are present in Ticino very close to Northern Italy. Famous companies such as Hugo Boss, Ermenegildo Zegna, Gucci, Guess, Giorgio Armani, Versace, VF International, etc. have been creating a strong know-how in trading, finance and logistics operations connected to the textile sector.

Recent developments

Lucerne was an important diamond trading centre until the beginning of 2002, when the South African de Beers group, which dominates the world diamond trade, transferred its business to London.

Many trading companies have come under pressure in recent years. The revolution in communications technology at the end of the 20th century has made trading far more transparent. Even small farmers can discover the world market price for their crops, and buyers prefer more and more to contact producers directly.

Globalisation has helped this direct trade by scrapping many tariff barriers, and the end of the cold war lifted the need for secrecy in the trading of strategic goods. Commodity prices have been dropping for several years, compounding the dealers' problems.

Furthermore, where businesses have been family-run over several generations they have often found it difficult to adopt the new management practices demanded in changing economic circumstances.