Summit Notebook

Exclusive outtakes from industry leaders

from Global Investing:

BRIC: Brilliant/Ridiculous Investment Concept

BRIC is Brazil, Russia, India, China -- the acronym coined by Goldman Sachs banker Jim O'Neill 10 years back to describe the world's biggest, fastest-growing and most important emerging markets.  But according to Albert Edwards, Societe Generale's uber-bearish strategist, it also stands for Bloody Ridiculous Investment Concept. Some investors, licking their wounds due to BRIC markets' underperformance in 2011 and 2010, might be inclined to agree -- stocks in all four countries have performed worse this year than the broader emerging markets equity index, to say nothing of developed world equities.

For years, money has chased BRIC investments, tempted by the countries' fast growth, huge populations and explosive consumer hunger for goods and services. But Edwards cites research showing little correlation between growth and investment returns. He points out that Chinese nominal GDP growth may have averaged 15.6 percent  since 1993 but the compounded  return on equity investments was minus 3.3 percent.

But economic growth -- the BRIC holy grail -- is also now slowing. Data showed this week that Brazil posted zero growth in the third quarter of 2011 compared to last year's 7.5 percent. Indian growth is  at the weakest in over two years. In Russia, rising discontent with the Kremlin -- reflected in post-election protests -- carries the risk of hitting the broader economy. And China, facing falling exports to a moribund Western world,  is also bound to slow. Edwards goes a step further and flags a hard landing in China as the biggest potential investment shock of 2012.  "Yet investors persist in the BRIC superior growth fantasy...If growth does matter to investors, they should be worried that
things seem to be slowing sharply in the BRIC universe," he writes.

Thomson Reuters data earlier this year appeared to show some disenchantment with the BRIC concept. After rising 1600-fold between 2003 and 2007, assets in BRIC funds had shrunk to $28 billion by August 2011, almost a quarter below 2007 peaks, a bigger fall in percentage terms than most other fund categories.

from Abhiram Nandakumar:

Stories of intuition and hope

Infosys’ head honcho S.D. Shibulal revealed he is an INTJ type.  It is hardly surprising then that Shibu, as he likes to be called, was one of the pioneers of the Global Delivery Model – corporate speak for outsourced IT services.

INTJ (short for Introvert, Intuition, Thinking and Judgment) is a rare personality type based on psychoanalyst Carl Jung’s works. INTJ personalities are self-starters, preferring to work alone without an authority looking over their shoulders and meticulously plan their activities to achieve success.

from Abhiram Nandakumar:

A garage, a beaker and a Bunsen burner

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, one of India’s most influential businesswomen and among the world’s most powerful women, says she’s an accidental entrepreneur.

Mazumdar-Shaw has shown that modest garage start-ups can extend beyond software and hardware companies. She set up what is now India's largest listed biotechnology company in 1978 and she encourages others to follow suit.

from Ask...:

Did Bernanke deliver?

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke went where no sitting Fed chief has gone before - a live regularly scheduled press conference.

Did Bernanke deliver the transparency markets are looking for, or are things just clear as mud?

Ag committee chair says new faces mean new dynamic on Capitol Hill

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They are new, enthusiastic and changing the environment on Capitol Hill.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas says “do not underestimate the effect” of the large number of freshmen lawmakers on his committee, which will sit down to overhaul U.S. farm subsidies next year. USA/

“This session of Congress is a little different from the ones I’ve participated in previously. A huge number of new members,” Lucas said at a Reuters Global Food and Agriculture Summit. “I’ve got a very enthusiastic bunch of new faces.”

HK Exchange’s Arculli plays it cool

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Spilling a piping cup of hot coffee down yourself in front of a room of journalists seconds before they start firing questions at you isn’t in your standard media training handbook.FINANCE-SUMMIT/
But 72-year-old Hong Kong Exchange Chairman Ronald Arculli, isn’t a man who gets easily ruffled. While the Reuters reporters went off in a frenzy bringing in tissues and mopping down the table, he just sat there keeping his cool,having not got a drop on his crisp white shirt or tie.

Aside from his role at Hong Kong Exchange, Arculli is a senior partner at law firm King & Wood, and his legal training shines through in interviews.

from Blogs Dashboard:

When is a threat not a threat?

By Kirstin Ridley

British bankers are not threatening to head for the Swiss hills. But that doesn’t mean they won’t pack their bags. So says Angela Knight, the head of the British Bankers Association.
Knight told the Reuters Future Face of Finance Summit that if British-based banks such as HSBC, Barclays and Standard Chartered consider whether to keep headquarters in London – given the banker bashing, punitive taxation and pay restrictions imposed here -- that is merely a fact.

Speaking one day after Europe’s largest bank HSBC cut profitability targets as tougher bank regulations eat into earnings, Knight conceded that she did not expect banks to move lock, stock and barrel to Geneva – and that images of jumbo jets laden with London bankers in pinstriped suits were mere “cartoons”.
But she said the simple truth was that the British economic growth lagged that of peers, while fixed costs were rising. Britain was not an obviously attractive place to be for bankers.
To remain an international financial centre, the country needed to be clever and get its regulation right. Banks, she said, were just telling it as it is. “Is there an expectation that employment in banking will be reduced? Yes … Is there an expectation that sentiment will turn around? No,” she said. “We are living in a country and a region where the costs of operation are high and (there is) a lot of personal condemnation (of the banking industry)... so I think that we cannot pretend that somehow that has no effect and no impact.

So how plugged in is the SEC chair? (technologically speaking)

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Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Schapiro says her agency has its work cut out to compete with the massive amounts of money that private firms, policed by the SEC, pour into the latest technology.

“Can we keep up with Wall Street? I think we have a fighting chance. We’ll never have, under any circumstances, the kind of budgets that would allow us to spend a billion dollars a year on technology as some firms do, I mean that’s just not going to happen, and I totally understand that,” she said at the Reuters Future Face of Finance Summit. FINANCE-SUMMIT/SCHAPIRO

from Chrystia Freeland:

Barton and Kleinfeld’s tips for Uncle Sam

During the depths of the financial crisis, Alcoa announced that it would lay off 13% of its global workforce, or about 13,500 people. Since then, they have built up their presence in China and Russia, finalized a new mine in Brazil, and started construction of the world's largest aluminum facilities in Saudi Arabia. Alcoa's rate of job creation in its home country of the United States, however, has been rather tepid in comparison.

Alcoa CEO Klaus Kleinfeld acknowledged that prospects for his business today were better abroad than they were at home, but he did note that in the past year Alcoa hired 1,500 people in the U.S. in the automotive and aerospace industries and so long as the United States retained its sense of entrepreneurship, creativity and excellence in higher education, jobs will come.

from Chrystia Freeland:

The revolutionary significance of job growth

It was striking to hear how encouraged both Klaus Kleinfeld and Dominic Barton sounded when Chrystia asked them about the effects of the recent turmoil in the Middle East on the business environment there. Barton believed the regime changes in Tunisia and Egypt were "the dawn of a new good thing that's occurring" and noted that it is likely that new capital will come into these countries as a new leadership emerges. Kleinfeld, whose company is in the process of building the world's largest integrated aluminum system in Saudi Arabia, said that Alcoa is still very comfortable in the region and that the only surprises with their Saudi partners have been positive surprises. For Kleinfeld, the most assured way to bring about stability in a region plagued by unrest is to have businesses come in and create jobs:

If there's one thing that the Middle East needs particularly for the young -- as well as well-educated people -- it's jobs. And it does it in a region which typically has not had much of an economic growth around Ras Azzour. So that's all very, very good. And not just for us as a company but also for the region. And it's gonna have a stabilizing as well as a kind of uplifting, positive element

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