Conferences head for a bubble

October 14, 2010

Never mind Chinese property prices, the world appears to be heading for a bubble in conference attendance. Alongside the big meetings that are happening just now — the IMF and G7 meetings in Washington last weekend, and the G20 financial leaders’ meeting in South Korea next week, countries and bankers are flocking to London to show off their wares, particularly in emerging markets.

confAbu Dhabi, Kazakhstan and Albania are among countries holding investment forums next week alone, just ahead of or coinciding with the G20 meeting.

Get in early or miss your seat for some of these events. A sovereign wealth fund conference featuring those elusive SWF officials whom every banker  likes to have in his contact book claimed to be shut (at least to press) as soon as invitations went out.

A bank presentation a few weeks ago on global and emerging market outlooks was standing-room only, while BRICs-coiner and just-appointed Goldman Sachs Asset Management head Jim O’Neill was turning guests away for a talk on Asia.

Meanwhile, ratings agency Fitch last week held a seminar on Africa, as its regular emerging markets conferences couldn’t deal with demand.

One fund manager freshly back from the IMF said side-meetings on countries like Uganda and Ghana were attracting 70-strong audiences, the same numbers as went to meetings on Brazil only a few years ago. Maybe something to do with the fact that both these frontier economies have discovered oil.

Everyone’s in the race to attract investor capital as the developed world appears stuck in a low-yield environment. If we head for double-dip, conference organisers could be the first to suffer.

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