This profile is part of the FT’s 2010 Women at the Top ranking of 50 prominent businesswomen around the world.

30. Monika Ribar, 51

Nationality: Swiss

Company: Panalpina

Sector: Freight and logistics

Location: Switzerland

Three-year TSR: -60.5%

Panalpina is a global logistics company shipping oil, gas, cars, healthcare products, fashion, high-tech components and more. Its main businesses are in air and ocean freight but it also offers road-to-rail and “final mile” delivery services. The performance of logistics companies is one of the thermometers used by analysts to take the temperature of global trade – and last year was tough for Monika Ribar, chief executive, but the first half of this year has been much sunnier.

With almost two decades at Panalpina, Ribar is thoroughly steeped in the Swiss company’s culture, moving up through various project management positions to chief investment officer, then chief financial officer and finally the top job in 2006. She has a masters in economics and business administration from the University of St Gallen and spent early years with Fides (now KPMG Switzerland).

Ribar’s tenure has been dogged by a long-standing US and EU corruption investigation concerning the alleged bribing of Nigerian customs officials. The company has had to make provision for legal and other fees while the matter remains outstanding.

So while forwarding volumes were up 36 per cent in air freight and up 19 per cent in ocean freight in the first half of the year, provisions for legal costs of SFr120m ($121m) more than offset the increases, leaving a net loss of SFr93m.

Stringent cost cutting and a customer relation management system that has helped identify and remove low-margin clients have delivered record earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation of 18.3 per cent for the company this year.

Given the double whammy of global recession and bribery allegations, Ribar has shown herself capable of steely leadership.

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