Summit Notebook Exclusive outtakes from industry leaders Thu, 28 Jun 2012 00:13:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Pelosi boils down winning back the House to A-B-C Thu, 28 Jun 2012 00:12:37 +0000 Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House of Representatives, says her party can take a strategy to regaining a House majority that is as simple as A-B-C.

At the Reuters Washington Summit on Wednesday, Pelosi, the Minority Leader in the House, repeated her optimistic contention that her party has a 50/50 chance of winning back control, two years after a crushing defeat in the 2010 mid-term elections.

According to Pelosi’s 2012 campaign aphorism, “A” stands for American made and promoting policies to help reignite manufacturing in the United States. “B” is to build American infrastructure, including a focus on broadband, water systems and high-speed rail. “C” is for a sense of community, including a focus on police officers, firefighters and public safety.

“Right now the momentum is with us,” Pelosi said of the November elections, where her party needs a net gain of 25 seats to win back the majority. “It’s easier to win 25 seats than to hold 63,” she declared. “We have out-recruited the Republicans and we have fabulous candidates. This time we will be ready.”

Never one to mince words, Pelosi, who for two terms was the first woman Speaker of the House until her party was dumped from power in 2010, bemoaned many of the current Republicans in the House as “a rabid band of anti-government ideologues.”

“There are some words that have taken a beating under the Republicans, and one of them is compromise,” said Pelosi. “Obstruction is not just a tactic, it’s an agenda for them. “

Photo credit: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks during the Reuters Washington Summit in Washington, June 27, 2012. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

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This time, some Democrats are embracing “Obamacare” Wed, 27 Jun 2012 13:21:36 +0000  

Fierce opposition to President Barack Obama's healthcare bill helped propel Republicans to big victories in the 2010 mid-term elections, when they won a majority of seats in the House of Representatives and cut into the Democratic majority in the Senate.

But this year, at least some Democrats are embracing the healthcare plan - touting their support for its popular provisions and attacking Republicans for opposing measures that polls show big majorities of Americans supporting.

North Dakota's former Democratic attorney general, Heidi Heitkamp, who is running for the Senate, responded to a wave of attack advertisements against her over the healthcare law by creating an emotional advertisement of her own relating her own recovery from breast cancer to her support for the law.

"Twelve years ago I beat breast cancer. When you live through that, political attack ads seem silly," she said in the advertisement, in which she speaks directly to the camera, wearing a soft blue jacket over a simple white top.

"I would never vote to take away a senior's healthcare or limit anyone's care. There's good and bad in the healthcare law and it needs to be fixed," she continues in the short spot, in which she criticizes her Republican opponent for failing to support the law.

"Rick Berg voted to go back, to letting insurance companies deny coverage to kids or for pre-existing conditions. I approved this message because I don't ever want to go back to those days," Heitkamp said.

Guy Cecil, executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, praised the ad and said he expected more candidates to address healthcare directly this year.

"I do think you'll see candidates being more proactive, like Heidi is, in dealing with this issue head-on," he said at the Reuters Washington Summit.  "In 2010, people weren't addressing it, weren't responding...This time our candidates are much more prepared to take on the issue head-on."

Watch Heitkamp's campaign ad:

Picture Credit: Guy Cecil addresses the Reuters Washington summit. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Video credit: YouTube/HeidiForNorthDakota

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Obama letter brings Democratic donors out of the woodwork Wed, 27 Jun 2012 00:50:11 +0000 A fundraising appeal from President Barack Obama on Monday netted Democratic Congressional candidates their biggest online fundraising day ever, New York Congressman Steve Israel said at the Reuters Washington Summit.

Obama made an email appeal asking supporters to donate $3 or more to help the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The appeal raised $580,000, said Israel, chairman of the DCCC, which helps recruit and raise money for candidates for the House of Representatives.

“Our base is animated, engaged, writing checks,” Israel said. “Our grassroots participation is absolutely off the charts.”

Obama’s brief email contained the suggestion that “if you’re with me, then I need you right now. We're just days away from the mid-year fundraising deadline -- this is the biggest test yet of our commitment to win in 2012. We can't fall short on this one.”

Israel said small checks have been flowing into the committee’s coffers recently. “A few weeks ago a guy sent us his World War Two war bond,” he added.

Democrats need a net increase of 25 seats in the November election to take back control of the House of Representatives.

Israel said he is buoyed by recent surveys – from Reuters/Ipsos, Bloomberg and CNN - showing that voters prefer Democrats over Republicans on a generic Congressional ballot but that the expected flood of spending from deep-pocketed Super PACs backing Republicans “keeps me up at night.” The DCCC has tried to counter that onslaught by reserving blocks of TV advertising time in 60 districts where it expects Super PACs to be active.

Being an incumbent will be a detriment for congressional candidates from either party in November given the public’s disdain for the political process, Israel said. “The whole Washington brand is in trouble – but the House Republican brand is toxic,” he said. “That’s the brand they have to defend.”

Photo credit: Representative Steve Israel (D-NY), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, speaks during the Reuters Washington Summit in Washington, June 26, 2012. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

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For Portman, it all comes down to beer Tue, 26 Jun 2012 16:09:01 +0000 Rob Portman is upset about the tax laws that make a real American beer hard to find.

The senator from Ohio, who is seen as a leading candidate to be Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's vice presidential pick, spoke out at the Reuters Washington Summit against tax policy that puts American companies at a disadvantage.

"I'm a beer drinker and I'm particularly upset by the fact there is no big U.S. beer company any more," said Portman, a former budget director who criticized the Obama administration for failing to overhaul corporate taxes in the United States.

"Sam Adams is now the largest U.S. beer company, with one percent market share. All the rest are foreign owned now and driven by tax policy."

Portman called for a revamped tax system "so Budweiser can stay an American company."

Photo credit: REUTERS/Nigel Roddis

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Outside campaign groups can coordinate – with each other Mon, 25 Jun 2012 20:57:54 +0000  

Super PACs and other outside campaign organizations are barred from coordinating with the candidates they support or political parties, but there is nothing keeping a Super PAC from coordinating with another Super PAC, or several Super PACs. And indeed, some of them do.

Jonathan Collegio, director of public relations for American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, Karl Rove's conservative Super PAC and non-profit, said outside groups on the right work together all the time.

"There's a lot of coordination among outside groups on the right, all of which is allowed," he said at the Reuters Washington Summit on Monday. "Starting in 2010, Crossroads started bringing together a lot of the organizations that were going to be spending a lot of money in the issue and election debate. The goal there was to maximize the efficiency of what everyone was doing."

Although he would not list the groups, he said several have met to cooperate by sharing polling information and research, and also to minimize the risks that that the television advertisements they buy will compete with one another. "Crossroads encouraged a number of the groups to share polling information, research and also to share the scheduling of their media buy information," he said.

Media buying is an important aspect of an election season in which more than $1 billion is expected to be spent on television advertising. Collegio said he expected there might be so many ads in some areas that television stations will run out of airtime to sell.

"In some states they will," he said.

Picture credit: Jonathan Collegio sits down with Reuters journalists. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

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Blunt says to keep an eye on Virginia Mon, 25 Jun 2012 18:23:07 +0000 Missouri Senator Roy Blunt, a Republican who is Mitt Romney's point person in Congress, doesn't think Ohio or Florida will be the main states to watch on election night. He will have his eyes on Virginia.

In an interview at the annual Reuters Washington Summit, Blunt was asked which state was the one to monitor in the run-up to the Nov. 6 election between President Barack Obama and Romney.

"Virginia," he said. "If I was watching one state on election night, it would be a state I'd [watch]."

"I don't think Romney has to carry Virginia, but if he carries Virginia he's the president," Blunt predicted.

Blunt said he thought Romney would beat Obama in Florida and Ohio - two swing states where Republicans and Democrats are campaigning heavily.

Then Blunt, who was careful to say at the beginning of the interview that he did not speak on behalf of the Romney campaign, waffled a bit so he didn't sound too optimistic.

"I'm probably too close to that campaign to be much on the record on that topic," he said. "I've probably already made a mistake here...They all three are critical."

Photo credit: Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) answers reporters' questions during the Reuters Washington Summit in Washington, June 25, 2012. REUTERS/Jonathan Erns

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BRIC: Brilliant/Ridiculous Investment Concept Wed, 07 Dec 2011 15:37:30 +0000 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.

What of O'Neill, the man behind the moniker? He talks increasingly of Growth Markets, a broader grouping that also includes other promising emerging countries such as Turkey and Mexico. But at a Reuters investment summit this week O'Neill noted that the main reason for BRIC stocks' underperformance has been a massive monetary policy tightening exercise in all four countries, prompted by rising inflation.  With that at an end and valuations cheaper than they have been for a long time, he expects the BRIC markets, especiallly China, to do better next year despite slower growth. Time will tell.

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Stories of intuition and hope Wed, 23 Nov 2011 13:39:14 +0000

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.

Shibulal’s thoughts on M&A and his company’s margins reflect his INTJ traits.

“M&A is like falling in love. There is no plan like falling in love!” he said at the Reuters India Investment Summit.

Considering it has only made three acquisitions over the last five years, Infosys clearly doesn't fall in love easily.

Still, Shibu said the Indian software services behemoth “is comfortable spending 10 percent of its revenue on acquisitions.”

Shibu, one of the seven founding members, always looks for high-margin contracts.

“The competition can fight for low-hanging fruit.”

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A garage, a beaker and a Bunsen burner Wed, 23 Nov 2011 13:27:07 +0000

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.

“Today a lot of early stage research work can be done in a garage,” she said at the Reuters India Investment Summit.

Mazumdar-Shaw reckons opportunities for bio-tech startups are huge, considering the demand for sophisticated technology like genomic based systems, diagnostics for cancer stem cells, and high-end synthetic biology. All these are usually developed in small labs across the country.

“What I find today is that there are a large number of very innovative young biotech entrepreneurs who are doing things in a very small way. CellWorks is doing very interesting work on drug design.”

Her advice to budding entrepreneurs – If you have a novel idea and are looking to set up a business, don’t think twice, just go for it.

“I think in the life of any entrepreneur, you start somewhere. You start small. I don’t think most entrepreneurs have the luxury of thinking big because you have very limited resources. “

“If you’re an entrepreneur with a concept, with some kind of idea which you can at least start something with, go for it. It might be something small, but you know it’s just building it up. I mean that’s what I did.”

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Waiting for Europe’s “appropriate response” Thu, 13 Oct 2011 13:59:43 +0000 Will the euro zone finally act decisively?

Investors are hoping for something big from European leaders at the EU summit on Oct. 23 and of the Group of 20 on Nov. 3. But they also know the 17 nations of the euro have a habit of offering delayed, half-hearted rescues that have cost them credibility.

So there's been a lot of "urging" and "warning" in Brussels lately -- politicians and central bankers have all been demanding Europe act as international alarm grows that its sovereign debt problems may drag the world into recession. "Further delays are only aggravating the situation," said European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet on Tuesday in his last appearance at the European Parliament, before he hands over the post to Mario Draghi on Nov. 1.

A day earlier, Germany's Deputy Finance Minister, Joerg Asmussen, at the parliament to promote his candidacy to join the ECB's board, made his call, saying "cooperation has to be increased," across the euro members, divided as to who should pay to rescue the heavily indebted nations of southern Europe. "I want to see a solution for debt sustainability for Greece," Asmussen said. So do so many others, especially Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, who in Brussels on Thursday said it was a "crucial element to make the necessary decisions concerning Greece."

The European Roundtable of Industrialists, a business lobby of multinationals ranging from French car maker Renault to Spain's Telefonica, has also come through Brussels to make its point. The group's head, Leif Johansson, who is also chairman of Swedish phone maker Ericsson, warned that if European leaders fail to act, businesses could see a repeat of the liquidity freeze that followed the collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers.

"The worst element of the 2008/2009 crisis was when liquidity froze," he said. "The worst scenario we have right now is that that could happen again ... and there is a real downside risk." 

The Oct. 23 summit is being billed as a make-or-break event where Germany and France, the main powers in the euro zone, must come up with the solutions investors want. A meeting last Sunday between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicholas Sarkozy, and their promise of a comprehensive strategy, suggests there will be a serious attempt to put forward a framework to try to resolve the crisis.

There could be a deal for a second bailout plan for Greece and an agreement on who pays what, including a 30 percent to 50 percent writedown in Greek private sector debt, EU officials say. The focus is also on the banks, who need more capital reserves as protection against losses in Greece.

And finally, there will likely an agreement to multiply the power of the bloc's EFSF rescue fund beyond  its 440 billion euro ($600 billion) limit, which would not be enough to deal with Italy, the world's fourth-largest borrower with its sovereign debt running to almost 2 trillion euros.

Unless France and Germany come up with something sooner, of course. But whatever they say they will do, it must convince investors. Trichet seemed to say it best. "We are the epicenter of a global crisis ... we need an appropriate response."

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