Denis O'Brien talks investments as Davos gets down to business
SOME of the world's most powerful political and financial leaders got down to business yesterday as the World Economic Forum began in earnest.
While organiser Klaus Schwab wants to focus on the dangers facing capitalism from rising inequality, most of the delegates appeared to be upbeat about the prospects for the year ahead.
As the sun bathed Davos in a warm glow that came close to melting the snow on the streets of this small Swiss Alpine city, economists and financiers declared the recession more or less over.
Economist Kenneth Rogoff was among those predicting stock market gains in 2014, although he also called for higher taxes on the rich to combat the growing inequality between the haves and the have nots.
His comments came after Pope Francis said in Rome that those responsible for the global system need a new business and political mentality. He also urged those attending Davos to use their skills to fix the economic system.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny will take part in a public debate on Europe this evening but most of yesterday was taken up with intense half-hour meetings with US business leaders.
Mr Kenny began yesterday by meeting Citi executive Jim Cowles before talking to Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg. There were also discussions with Adobe's Brian Lambkin and Japanese pharmaceutical boss Yasuchika Hasegawa who heads Takeda Pharmaceutical.
Yesterday evening, both Mr Kenny and Finance Minister Michael Noonan hosted a regular dinner sponsored by the IDA for business leaders.
Denis O'Brien, who has been attending Davos for more than a decade, said yesterday that he expects stocks will rise this year while interest rates will remain low.
"I'm going to stick with global telecom stocks," the 55-year-old billionaire told Bloomberg.
"I'm comfortable that the equity markets will continue to be better over time with increasing value and dividends."
Mr O'Brien, who is the biggest shareholder in the parent of this newspaper, said if he had $100m (€73.7m) to invest, he would bet $40m on Vodafone, $20m on Bharti Airtel, $20m on SoftBank, and $20m on Bangkok-based Advanced Info Service.
"I am positive about 2014, but it will not be like 2013 in terms of S&P 500 index gains," he said.
"The stock market will be up due to better global earnings and consumers doing better.
"Consumers are recovering their appetite for goods, as they are only now emerging from their version of the debt crisis."
Mr O'Brien said the biggest hurdle facing the global economy was politicians.
"They are more and more worried about their re-election than growing their economies," he said.
"Also, certain European banks still have issues particularly in the Benelux region, Spain, Italy, France and Germany. It will take many more years to sort them out." (Additional reporting Bloomberg)