IMPERIAL TOBACCO: The leading British cigarette firm is a safe haven in uncertain times because of its huge cash flow almost one-tenth of its total $13 billion sales. Its stock price has made a steady 12% gain since February, despite the market's wartime worries. Besides, if the war stays nasty, jittery folk might start smoking again.
BEIERSDORF: Sales of its Tesa-brand duct tape in the U.S. soared tenfold after
COGNITEC: This tiny German tech company collapsed in the 1990s because there wasn't a market for its face-recognition technology. That's changed as terrorism has become a priority; the reborn firm recently won a test carried out by four U.S. agencies.
L'OREAL: Even in difficult economic times, consumers still want to look fabulous. That's propelling the French cosmetics giant's sales up 10.4% in the first three months of this year despite American boycott calls.
GENERALI: European insurers were crushed by falling stock markets and will be the first to benefit from an upturn. This Italian insurer could have two added bounces: it's better capitalized than many rivals and its messy ownership structure has just been simplified.
BAE: You might think defense contractors would thrive during wartime. But Britain's BAE, maker of military jets and submarines and a part-owner of Airbus, is caught in a war of its own. It wants to partner with an American firm, possibly Boeing, but that could conflict with its joint ventures in Europe.
TOTALFINAELF: With the majority of Iraqi oil wells secured by U.S. and British troops, all oil firms are feeling the pinch of prices that have fallen 30% from February's highs. But France's Total has deals to exploit huge oil fields in Iraq, negotiated under Saddam Hussein but never implemented. Don't expect the U.S. to honor them.
RICHEMONT: An end to the war won't end the troubles for this Swiss luxury-goods group, whose brands include Cartier and Montblanc. Even before the Asian flu outbreak which hits luxury goods by cutting business travel the company warned profits would be down about 40% because of hard times. Analysts say Richemont hasn't yet instilled the financial discipline needed to weather the downturn.
EUROPEAN AIRLINES: Except for some low-cost carriers, Europe's airlines have hit a wall. Passenger traffic was already down 10% since the war began. But SARS could have an even worse effect, said KLM's CEO Leo van Wijk, as the company reported a fresh 3% drop. British Airways took an even bigger hit, with total revenue down 11.4% and traffic to Asia plunging 25%.
Where Did Saddam Hide His Loot?
To find money for rebuilding Iraq, some European nations may just want to pop by their local banks. Saddam Hussein's regime has quietly deposited an estimated $6-30 billion across Europe and the Middle East, as illegal kickback money from companies buying Iraq's oil poured in despite U.N. sanctions.
The U.S. seized $1.5 billion, but a huge hoard remains. John Fawcett, who investigated Saddam's finances for the Coalition for International Justice, notes that some European countries don't seem eager to sniff out Saddam's hidden money, since they would then face losing it: "Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg could be much more aggressive." Neither has France shown much zeal. And even after Saddam's regime fades, the allure of holding his money may not.
THE BOTTOM LINE
'Look what Madonna did for bras: why can't people be like that with masks?'
Prudence Mak-Borelli, Hong Kong-based designer, hoping to benefit from SARS by creating protective masks that are also fashion accessories