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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 January, 2004, 10:57 GMT
Dollar drags down Europe's firms
Euro coins
The relentless rise of the euro has hit sales among Europe's biggest companies.

In a swathe of corporate results this week, export-oriented firms have admitted that the weak dollar is making covering euro costs more difficult.

Among companies reporting on Thursday, drinks maker Remy Cointreau and plastic goods firm Bic have suffered especially sharply as export revenues fell.

The euro has risen by more than one quarter against the dollar since the beginning of last year.

Focus of debate

The weak dollar is increasingly being seen as a critical problem for the world economy.

Euro-dollar exchange rate
Eurodisney: Sales flat at 264m euros during last quarter of 2003
Remy Cointreau: Sales drop 12% to 703m euros in last nine months of 2003
Bic: 2003 sales drop 8.8% to 1.4bn euros
LVMH: 2003 sales drop 6% to 12bn euros
Siemens: Sales drop 3% to 18.3bn euros during last quarter of 2003
SAP: Sales drop 3% to 2.2bn euros during last quarter of 2003
L'Oreal: 2003 sales drop 1.8% to 14bn euros

In Europe, there is the fear that a strong euro could slow the region's emergence from the recent patch of economic stagnation.

In Japan, which is even more dependent on export earnings than Europe, such fears reached a critical pitch, and the central bank has repeatedly intervened to push down the yen.

The markets have taken little notice, however, and most analysts feel that only concerted international action could succeed in effecting a noticeable realignment in exchange rates.

This would have to be coordinated by the G7, the group of rich economies which has intervened in markets on several previous occasions.

But analysts detect little appetite for such a move at present, since the US seems to be happy to let the dollar slide.

Ups and downs

In Europe, there is also no clear consensus.

European and US shares
Some policy-makers have argued that a strong euro could benefit the region, which is also a major importer of raw materials.

And the euro is now not much stronger than its launch value of 1999.

The main firms to have suffered are either in tourism, and hence vulnerable to the comings and goings of American tourists, or in the business of manufacturing for export.

Some firms have managed to escape this effect by shifting some or all of their production outside the eurozone.

But companies such as Nokia, one of the region's main exporters, still manufacture in Europe.

And luxury-goods companies such as LVMH and Remy Cointreau, which have little choice but to leave production in Europe, are also disproportionately dependent on selling to the dollar-earning rich in the Middle East and Asia.

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