Sulzer's textile machinery arm was formally put on the market earlier this week when CEO Ueli Roost announced the Swiss technology firm's new strategy.

Sulzer Textil, which makes weaving machines, employs around 2000 workers and, together with the other business units to be sold off (Sulzer Infra, Sulzer Pumps, Sulzer Turbo and Sulzer Burckhardt), brings in revenues of CHF3.6bn ($2.03bn, £1.4bn).

Hans Kaspar Ryser, media spokesman for Sulzer, said that the company is aiming to divest itself of its textile technology unit within 15 months. "This is the time frame that we have given to Textil employees, however, if we do not achieve this, we will not close Textil."

He denied reports that Sulzer was preparing to strike a deal with Swiss companies Saurer or Rieter. "They are just rumours. We are looking for the best buyer for all of the units affected and are certain that we will find one. Sulzer will give preference to those buyers who respect their obligations to the workforce. It is Sulzer's intent to conclude these divestitures rapidly so that the period of uncertainty for the employees affected is as short as possible."

The rumours, however, continue to circulate. Analyst Sven Bucher said he saw no logic in Sulzer selling its textiles technology arm to Swiss competitors Saurer and Rieter. "Sulzer is active in weaving machines, while Rieter and Saurer are active in spinning machines. Those are completely different technologies," he said.

Sulzer's new corporate strategy, which will lead to the largest redirection in the company's history, was formulated by the board and executive management over the past several months. Each business unit was thoroughly analysed for strategic position, revenue and growth potential. The causes of the unsatisfactory performance of the Sulzer Corporation were identified as its too broad diversification, large presence in mature and cyclical markets, and the exposed strategic positions of certain businesses.

A new corporate structure will support the transformation process. From the beginning of next year Ueli Roost, chairman of the board of Sulzer, will lead the executive committee as CEO. Fred Kindle, now head of Sulzer Industries, will be named deputy CEO. As of January 1, 2003, it is planned that Ueli Roost will again concentrate on his role as chairman of the board of Sulzer and that Fred Kindle will assume the position of chief executive officer.