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Family business roundup: George Weston and Bombardier post weak results

By Giulia Cambieri

It’s been a challenging year for two of Canada’s biggest family businesses, with plane and train maker Bombardier and food giant George Weston struggling to achieve strong profit rises.

Although Bombardier said on 1 March that net profit rose by 8% in 2011 to $837 million (€634.5 million), the Montreal-based group saw its fourth quarter net profits drop by 27.5% to $214 million, from $295 million in 2010.

The company was affected by lower aircraft deliveries, due in part to a change in its year end to 31 December from 31 January.

The aerospace division delivered 245 planes in 2011, 11 fewer than the previous year, with sales falling by 35.5% during the fourth quarter to $2 billion, from $3.1 billion in 2010.

However, full-year revenues at the group, which is controlled by the Bombardier-Beaudoin family, rose to $18.3 billion, up 2.2% from $17.9 billion in 2010.

Fellow Canadian family business George Weston saw a 1.7% increase in its 2011 turnover – with sales of CAN$32.4 billion (€24.8 billion) last year, compared with CAN$31.8 billion in 2010.

Earnings before taxes at the food firm, controlled by the Weston family, rose by 9% in the same period to CAN$1.2 billion in 2011, from CAN$1.1 billion the previous year.

In Europe, Swatch Group, the Swiss watchmaker owned by the Hayek family, confirmed on 1 March the preliminary results it published in January.

The company’s annual report showed double-digit growth in 2011 – with a turnover of CHF6.8 billion (€5.6 billion), up 10.7% from CHF6.1 billion in 2010. It added that operating profit in 2011 was CHF1.6 billion, from CHF1.4 billion in 2010 – a 12.4% increase.

In Germany, carmaker Audi, part of the Volkswagen Group, saw its sales increase by 24.4% last year to €44.1 billion, from €35.4 billion in 2010, the Bavaria-based group said on 1 March.

Pre-tax operating profit at the company, which is controlled by the Piech family, grew by 66.2% during the same period to €6 billion, from €3.6 billion in 2010.