Davos

(c) Getty Images

There was a very interesting session this morning on the “sharing economy” focused on the consequences of companies such as Airbnb, which allows people to rent their rooms out, or Zipcar, which allows people to rent rather than own cars in cities easily.

Everyone agreed that the increased efficiency and reduced redundancy was a great idea and even traditional companies liked the idea. Sir Ian Cheshire, CEO of Kingfisher, recognised that if products his companies sold were used more intensively, customers would come back more often, so the idea was not a huge threat to good traditional companies. Read more

One of the benefits – and pleasures of Davos – is the chance conversations that strike up among strangers, either in the fringes of meetings or on the shuttle buses that ferry people around town.

On Wednesday evening, I was in a shuttle bus with three other people. One of them introduced himself as Kumi Naidoo, head of Greenpeace in South Africa.

Sitting opposite him happened to be Tulsi Tanti, chairman of Suzlon, an Indian wind energy company that has an operation in South Africa. They started to talk about wind and solar energy in Africa. Read more

Courtesy of FastFT:

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani is giving a high-profile keynote address at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Thursday. Read more

By Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive Save the Children

The world has a habit of kicking off while Davis convenes and in past years I’ve been dismayed at the way the formal agenda carried on seemingly obliviously, for example when the so called Arab Spring began. Granted there’s been plenty of advance warning, but this year the Syria crisis is firmly on the agenda. From off the record discussions about the peace talks, to simulations of what it’s like to be a Syrian refugee, to press briefings on the need for humanitarian access. A startling combination of aid agencies and global financiers such as George Soros are collaborating to get attention to the impact on ordinary Syrian families caught up in the fighting, and call for aid to be allowed through and an end to the targeting of schools, hospitals and highly populated areas.

Just sometimes, you encounter somebody or something that shatters your preconceptions of Davos.

I attended a private dinner on Wednesday that had all the Davos elements: a star co-host (“theatrical journalist” Tina Brown), a big business backer (Credit Suisse), and a cast of A-listers – Matt Damon, this year’s World Economic Forum celebrity, came for cocktails, Sir Richard Branson and George Osborne stayed for dinner, Cherie Blair dropped by for dessert.

The theme was the annual celebration of powerful and important women, many of whom were present.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (c) Getty Images

But it was the women honoured who made the evening truly extraordinary. Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala recounted her effort to reform the African country’s economy (as she likes to point out “when you fight corruption, corruption fights back”).

But even she was outshone, in my view, by the campaigning 25-year-old Pakistani Khalida Brohi, and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, the award-winning filmmaker who has documented Ms Brohi’s brave efforts to improve the lives of Pakistani women. Read more

From the World Economic Forum in Davos, Martin Wolf on whether markets are safer now and why Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe’s comments on China are the most sobering he has heard at Davos in years.

(c) World Economic Forum

By Martin Arnold, Banking Editor

Two of the world’s most senior bankers sought to rebuff the charges of their critics by arguing the industry had become safer since the financial crisis thanks to higher capital levels, lower leverage, reformed pay structures and a tougher regulatory scrutiny.

Douglas Flint, chairman of HSBC, said of the financial crisis: “Nobody in that room [the HSBC boardroom] ever wants to take the risk of ever being in that situation again.”

Speaking on a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, he added that the HSBC board was spending half to two-thirds of its time “dealing with the aftermath of the crisis”.

Antony Jenkins, chief executive of Barclays, said: “Where the system failed and where institutions failed within that was where they mis-priced risk.” Arguing that banks had increased the levels of capital they held and reduced their leverage, he added that “changes
in conduct” had also reduced the chances of the 2008 crisis being repeated. Read more

FT editor Lionel Barber reports on a positive mood on the first day of the World Economic Forum in Davos, and says the big talking points will be China, growth and political deadlock in the US, and optimism over Africa.

James Gorman, the chief executive of Morgan Stanley, neatly summarised his view of US authorities’ so-called “princeling” probe, into whether rival bank JPMorgan sought to win deals in China by hiring the sons and daughters of the country’s elite.

“There are a lot of talented people that come from those families,” Mr Gorman told CNBC, in a television interview on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Full story on FastFT

(c) Getty Images

Here at Davos, I’ve just had the opportunity to moderate a discussion between the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, and a group of international journalists. I asked Mr Abe whether a war between China and Japan was “conceivable”.

Interestingly, he did not take the chance to say that any such conflict was out of the question. In fact, Mr Abe explicitly compared the tensions between China and Japan now to the rivalry between Britain and Germany in the years before the first world war, remarking that it was a “similar situation”.

The comparison, he explained, lies in the fact that Britain and Germany – like China and Japan – had a strong trading relationship. But in 1914, this had not prevented strategic tensions leading to the outbreak of conflict.

Naturally enough, Mr Abe also made it clear that he would regard any “inadvertent” conflict as a disaster – and he repeated his call for the opening of a military-to-military communication channel between China and Japan. Read more

By John Gapper

An efficient and functioning internet can boost GDP, partly by enabling small and medium-sized companies to sell and source raw materials more widely, according to a Boston Consulting Group report unveiled at Davos. Read more

FT senior columnist Gillian Tett reports on why business and governments are at loggerheads over where growth will come from, with business saying it is not ready to invest, yet confidence in governments is low.

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Chris Giles, economics editor, finds a mood of optimism among economic experts on the first day of the World Economic Forum in Davos, but concerns remain over the strength of the recovery.

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By Martin Arnold, Banking Editor, in Davos

The first of many debates about China at Davos this year made an unexpectedly hostile debut this morning as Zhang Xin, head of Beijing’s biggest property developer Soho, was put on the spot over the country’s crackdown on corruption.

“Your industry is one of the most corrupt in China,” said moderator Andrew Browne, China editor of the Wall Street Journal, as he asked Ms Zhang to share her views on the issue. Read more

This is not the dog in question

I am happy to be here in Davos. The only cloud on the horizon is that the room next door to me at the Hotel Cresta appears to be occupied by a dog. I could hear it barking agitatedly through the walls. The prospects for a good night’s sleep – so vital when you are planning to rub shoulders with world leaders – seem dim. Read more

A post-Davos debrief on the state of the world economy

As US growth shrinks and fears of a catastrophic collapse in the eurozone recede, Gideon Rachman, FT editor Lionel Barber and economic editor Chris Giles discuss the strength of world economy in this week’s podcast (also available on video)

By Gideon Rachman

The “reasonable person” is usually to be found in legal textbooks. If you want to meet the “reasonable person” in the flesh, however, I would suggest a trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos.

By Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of Save the Children

There are two sessions on the future of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals beyond 2015 at Davos this year – the same number of sessions given to meditation and art walks. The word ‘growth’ features in 11 of the agenda’s headings, ‘human’ in four, but ‘poverty’ gets no airtime at all. Yet, if the World Economic Forum is ‘committed to improving the state of the world’, what happens after 2015 is a critical debate for every government that signed up to the MDGs in the first place, and for every business with supply chains or future customers in emerging and developing countries. Read more

(AP)

Friday’s events from the World Economic Forum feature an address by Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, and sessions looking at the challenges faced by, and presented by, the fast-changing Arab world. Reports from FT writers in Davos and by Ben Fenton, Lina Saigol and Lindsay Whipp in London

17.03: The Davos Live Blog is closing down now but for more reading and insight on today’s events, please visit the FT’s in depth page on the World Economic Forum.

16.41: Gideon Rachman, titular proprietor of this blog, has written his surmise from the earlier session on Syria.

16.16: Asked by the Amercian moderator of his panel session about corruption and banking regulation, Nigeria’s central bank governor Sanusi displays a little frustration:

He said: “We are the only country which has taken people out of banks and put them in jail. No bankers in your countries have gone to jail.”

16.12: Martin Wolf has recorded his view on the politics and economics at play in a “low-intensity” Davos this year:

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Lord Paul Boateng, former chief secretary to the treasury and the former UK high commissioner to South Africa, answers questions about his first trip to Davos.

1. Is this your first trip to Davos?

I have to confess that it is. I’ve reached a fairly advanced age without ever having felt Davos was for me. I have been an active participant, however, both as a cabinet minister and a diplomat at the spin offs in Mumbai and Cape Town where the WEF reaches out to the rest of the world.

2. What’s the best thing about going to Davos?

If you’ve got an idea or a product to sell then this is a quite unique market place. There are lots of serious people on the lookout for the next big idea or opportunity. A voracious media circus with the promise of global coverage also helps. Read more