Saturday 27 May 2017

Serious seminars give way to real business at after-show parties

THE snow-covered streets are lined with black Mercedes saloons shuttling the political and business elite from one exclusive soiree to another. The hobnobbing at Davos is ferocious.

And while the serious issues are debated during the hundreds of seminars that run over the three-day event, the real business is carried out at the so-called "after show" parties across the town.

Despite the ongoing recession, or perhaps because of it, the number of delegates attending the bash continues to rise each year. The only notable exception is our good friends the bankers, whose numbers have dropped significantly over the last number of years as they continue to lick their wounds.

This year, the Occupy Wall Street protesters are also making their presence felt.

The ski resort is a tough place to protest in and is not for the faint-hearted -- especially when the it is experiencing its biggest snowfall in 20 years.

But the campaigners are undeterred, with hundreds of them setting up camp on the outskirts of the town in their makeshift igloos.

But it is the raft of global power brokers who generate the most headlines. So who exactly has made it to the Swiss Alpine town this year?

The political contingent is well represented and includes luminaries such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel; French President Nicolas Sarkozy; Christine Lagarde of the IMF; and Mario Draghi, the boss of the European Central Bank, along with his predecessor Jean-Claude Trichet.

Eurozone leaders from the "periphery" include the embattled premiers of Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain.

All of them are likely to spend the week devising mechanisms to prevent the eurozone sliding off a precipice.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and his fellow European "outs" will be hovering around the edges, though they may find they have more time for skiing.

President Barack Obama is not here but his Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, will be attending along with some members of Congress.

We have dispatched Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who will be addressing a crucial seminar today with the daunting title 'Rebuilding Europe'.

Other Irishmen to pitch up include Goldman Sachs International chairman Peter Sutherland -- who is one of the longest-serving members of the Davos Forum -- along with Dublin's Archbishop Diarmuid Martin and businessman Denis O'Brien.

There are more corporate bosses from the rest of Europe than you can shake a stick at.

Everyone from Vittorio Calao, of Vodafone; Sheryl Sandberg, of Facebook; Doug McMillion, of Walmart; Martin Sorrell, of WPP; Eric Schmidt, of Google; and Tom Albanese, of Rio Tinto, are rubbing shoulders with high-profile economists including Nouriel Roubini and Joseph Stiglitz, plus a smattering of bankers such as Jamie Dimon, of JP Morgan, and Bob Diamond, of Barclays.

There are also some fading stars like Gordon Brown and Peter Mandelson.

There is also some glamour to offset the gloom; members of the Saudi royal family and the Crown Princess of Norway have arrived alongside the billionaire business aristocracy that includes Lakshmi Mittal, the steel tycoon; Ivan Glasenberg, flush from the Glencore float, and legendary investors George Soros, Louis Bacon and Daniel Och.

Some party.

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