ZURICH (Reuters) - More than half of Swiss engineering firms expect orders from abroad to rise over the next 12 months and the sector could see revenue return to pre-pandemic levels in the second half of this year, an industry group said on Thursday.
The business environment improved further in the first quarter as vaccinations are on the rise in Western countries and the world increasingly looks beyond the pandemic, Swissmem said.
Its members include ABB, Schindler and the Swiss operations of German-based Bosch, among dozens of other companies.
"I'm pleased the positive trend is continuing that had already emerged at the end of 2020," Swissmem director Stefan Brupbacher said in a statement.
"The most important indicators show that revenue could reach pre-crisis levels in the second half of 2021."
Some 57% of the group's members expect rising orders from beyond Swiss borders over the next 12 months. Just 8% of chief executives at member companies see falling orders, Swissmem said.
Orders are expected to increase in some of Switzerland's biggest markets, including neighbouring Germany as well as China and the United States, where strong economic growth at the start of 2021 has been powered by the government's stimulus programme meant to fuel consumer spending.
The pandemic has still left deep scars on a sector that employs some 320,000 people in Switzerland, with at least 24% of Swissmem members polled saying they reported an operating loss in 2020, and 31% reporting an "unsatisfactory" operating margin of less than 5% of revenue.
(Reporting by John Miller; Editing by Susan Fenton)