Victorinox AG, a name famous for its presence on Swiss army knives sold around the world, has bought its smaller rival, the family run firm Wenger SA, the two companies said yesterday.
The purchase means that one of the most enduring icons of Switzerland -- the military knife complete with corkscrews, can openers and screwdrivers -- will remain Swiss.
"Keeping the Swiss cross in Swiss hands is the best way to move forward," said Victorinox director Carl Elsener, adding that the purchase will allow the firms to compete better against international opposition.
The two makers of Swiss Army knives have been struggling since a sales slump after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Pocket knives suddenly became less attractive when airport screeners began confiscating anything sharp or pointed, including nail files.
Now Wenger needs greater financial backing to restructure its activities and to return to profitability in 2006, the two firms said in a statement. Wenger's production facilities will remain in Delemont and there will be no job losses there, the companies said.
Victorinox's knife sales were 169-million Swiss francs ($177-million) in 2004, compared with Wenger's sales of 23 million francs. Neither company discloses profit figures or is quoted on the Swiss stock exchange.
"What better news could the 150 employees at Wenger and the representatives of the local business community hear this morning?" said Jean-Jacques Gunzinger, a board member.
Victorinox and Wenger evenly split the rights to provide the Swiss military with knives. Between them, they make about 25.7 million knives a year, which are exported to about 150 countries. AP