The Swiss National Bank (SNB) discontinued the CHF1.20 per Euro exchange rate it imposed in 2011, citing changes in currency markets since the introduction of the control as the basis for its decision.
SNB chairman Thomas Jordan said: “Recently, divergences between the monetary policies of the major currency areas have increased significantly – a trend that is likely to become even more pronounced.
“The euro has depreciated substantially against the US dollar and this, in turn, has caused the Swiss franc to weaken against the US dollar. In these circumstances, the SNB has concluded that enforcing and maintaining the minimum exchange rate for the Swiss franc against the euro is no longer justified.”
Initially, the shock move caused the value of the Swiss franc rise against the Euro. However, in the hours since the exchange rate has stabilised at around CHF1.0250 to the Euro.
Drug companies like Actelion, Novartis and Roche as well as services firms like Lonza and SGS all saw there share prices fall.
Novartis was down 10.6% and Roche was down % at 14:40 today.
Lonza's share price fell 17.20% in Swiss francs.
SGS' shareprice was down 8% in Swiss francs.
Brenda Kelly from IG told in-Pharmatechnologist.com "We can likely expect to see ongoing volatility in the broader market today as many traders will be forced to liquidate other positions to cope with this sudden shock."
Lonza told us "The move of the Swiss National Bank to give up the minimum exchange rate comes as a full surprise. We have a natural hedge with the Euro and Dollar.
The firm added that: "A weaker Euro will mainly negatively impact the competitiveness of our Visp operations as more than 90% of the products are exported, whereof the Euro has an important share."
"The minimum exchange rate was an important measure for Visp to be competitive and to have a stable exchange rate, which also allowed for more reliable planning. The full impact will only be seen once the exchange rate has stabilized at a certain ratio."
Lonza has been working to make Visp operations more efficient for the past few years in a bid to stave off the combined negative impact of the strong Swiss franc and competition from Asia.
This process began in 2011 with the introduction of longer working hours and continued more recently with Lonza choosing to conduct more high value manufacturing work at the facility.