Two of Switzerland’s largest exports-related companies are behemoths competing on the international pharmaceuticals market–namely Novartis and Roche Holding. The other eight companies span a diverse range of industries, from construction materials to electronics.
To give some international trade perspective on recent company performance, the overall value of Swiss exported goods depreciated by -0.2% from US$311.1 billion in 2014 to $310.5 billion during 2018. Year over year, Switzerland’s exports improved in value by 3.7% from 2017 to 2018.
In the analysis below, we compare 10 of Switzerland’s top 10 major exports-related companies based on asset values, sales and profitability as of December 2018. Also presented is the Swiss city where each business has its headquarters.
Switzerland’s Top 10 Major Export Companies
Below are Switzerland’s biggest export companies organized by asset value. Shown within parentheses is the primary industry in which each company operates. Also shown is the change in asset value as of December 2018 compared to 2017.
- UBS (major bank): US$960.1 billion, up 3.4% from 2017
- Glencore International (diversified metals, mining): $135.6 billion, up 8.8%
- Novartis (pharmaceuticals): $135.5 billion, up 3.9%
- Nestle (food processing): $133.8 billion, up 3.1%
- Roche Holding (pharmaceuticals): $78.7 billion, up 4.1%
- LafargeHolcim (construction materials): $65.3 billion, down -4.7%
- ABB (industrial conglomerate): $43.6 billion, up 9.9%
- Swisscom (telecommunications services): $23.9 billion, up 13.2%
- TE Connectivity (electronics): $19.2 billion, up 9%
- Lonza Group (specialized chemicals): $14.6 billion, up 1.4%
Nine of these large Swiss multinationals grew their asset values from 2017 to December 2018, led by telecommunication provider Swisscom’s 13.2% gain.
The lone decliner was construction materials supplier LafargeHolcim thanks to its -4.7% drop in asset value.
Sales is the life blood of most businesses, and particularly for firms that compete in international trade. Among Switzerland’s major exports-related businesses, the leading sales gainer was diversified metals and mining holding company Glencore International.
- Glencore International: US$205.4 billion, up 33.6% from 2017
- Nestle: $91.2 billion, up 0.4%
- Roche Holding: $54.2 billion, up 5.6%
- Novartis: $50.3 billion, up 3.7%
- UBS: $40.3 billion, up 6.1%
- ABB: $35 billion, up 3.4%
- LafargeHolcim: $26.5 billion, down -3%
- TE Connectivity: $14 billion, up 12.3%
- Swisscom: $12.1 billion, up 2.4%
- Lonza Group: $5.2 billion, up 23.8%
Specialized chemicals supplier Lonza Group posted the second-fastest sales increase via its 23.8% improvement year over year.
The only decliner among these top Swiss businesses was construction materials provider LafargeHolcim, thanks to its -3% slowdown compared to 2017.
Nine of Switzerland’s top 10 major export companies generated black ink as of December 2018. The only top Swiss business listed below that incurred a loss was construction materials company LafargeHolcim. To make the red ink even less palatable, LafargeHolcim slid from a $1.8 billion surplus in 2017 to its -$1.7 billion loss in the latest period.
- Roche Holding: US$8.8 billion, down -9.5% from 2017
- Novartis: $8.1 billion, up 20.9%
- Nestle: $7.3 billion, down -15.7%
- Glencore International: $5.8 billion, reversing a -$453.3 million deficit
- ABB: $2.1 billion, up 7.1%
- Swisscom: $1.6 billion, down -1.8%
- UBS: $1.5 billion, down -55.9%
- TE Connectivity: $1.3 billion, down -37.2%
- Lonza Group: $740 million, up 141.8%
- LafargeHolcim: -$1.7 billion, reversing a $1.8 billion surplus
At the other end of the spectrum, diversified metals and mining competitor Glencore International went from a -$453.3 million loss in 2017 to garner a robust $5.8 billion surplus.
Three of these top Swiss companies improved their profitability year over year, namely specialized chemicals supplier Lonza Group (up 141.8%), pharmaceuticals titan Novartis (up 20.9%) and industrial conglomerate ABB (up 7.1%).
Three of Switzerland’s major exports-related companies have their headquarters in Basel, a city located in the northwestern region of Switzerland on the river Rhine. Basel is surrounded by two of Switzerland’s most powerful trading partners, Germany and France.
- ABB: Zurich
- Glencore International: Baar
- LafargeHolcim: Jona
- Lonza Group: Basel
- Nestle: Vevey
- Novartis: Basel
- Roche Holding: Basel
- Swisscom: Worblaufen
- TE Connectivity: Schaffhausen
- UBS: Zurich
Another pair of these world-class Swiss businesses is headquartered in Zurich. Also spelled Zürich, Zurich is a hub for railways, roads and air traffic. Zurich is also Switzerland’s largest city.
Note: Some of the above company offerings may include products other than the principal category shown within parenthesis under the Assets tab.
For example, Nestle not only manufactures food products ranging from prepared dishes and cooking aids to baby foods and cereals. The multinational firm also sells pharmaceuticals and ophthalmic goods to help ensure eye health.
Besides diversified metals and minerals, holding company Glencore International also provides fossil fuel including oil and coal as well as agricultural products. The latter includes wheat, corn, canola, barley, rice, oilseeds, meals, edible oils, biofuels, cotton and sugar.
See also Switzerland’s Top 10 Exports, Switzerland’s Top 10 Imports and Switzerland’s Top Trading Partners
Forbes Global 2000 individual company profiles, Example of top Swiss company compiled for this study: Novartis. Accessed on October 16, 2019
Forbes Global 2000 rankings for Switzerland, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on October 16, 2019
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on October 16, 2019
Wikipedia, Category: Companies of Switzerland. Accessed on October 16, 2019
Wikipedia, List of companies of Switzerland. Accessed on October 16, 2019
Wikipedia, Zürich. Accessed on October 16, 2019