Summit Notebook

Exclusive outtakes from industry leaders

More or less fun in a recession? It’s a tough call

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EA_Jens_Uwe_Intat_SVP_Reuters_Summit_Paris_2010_17_May_30pctStill unsure whether economic recession is good or bad for video-games sales, more than a year in? If so, you’re in good company — neither does the world’s biggest games publisher. Electronic Arts’ head of European publishing says the company still hasn’t figured out whether people cut spending on big items like housing and cars first, or whether those kinds of decisions are just too hard.

“We really wonder, hmm, in economically difficult times would people in order to have SOME fun actually play more games or less games, and then, would they spend more or less?  It’s really, it’s impossible to say,” Jens-Uwe Intat told the Reuters Global Technology Summit in Paris.

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Avoiding another financial crisis

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The Global Exchanges & Trading Summit takes place as lawmakers and regulators craft new rules to avoid a repeat of the financial crisis. The rising chorus for more transparency in capital markets could drive a host of new derivatives to exchanges and clearinghouses, propelling them out of the recession, but growing calls for a clampdown on speculation and automated trading could hit some of the world’s most powerful dealers and investors, undercutting the exchanges that rely on them. High-frequency trading is behind much of the spike in volumes over the last year, but as volatility drops from crisis-era highs, traders of all kinds are forced to reevaluate strategies, and exchanges are maneuvering to attract that business. A couple years after a period of blockbuster mergers, investors wonder whether the heavyweight exchange operators are angling for another round. Join us March 29-31 as we ask some of the biggest players in the industry to share their insights and outlook for the industry at the Reuters Global Exchanges and Trading Summit which will take place in New York, London, Hong Kong.

Recession’s perfect storm speeds up change in ad industry

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Why is it that the United States’ advertising as a proportion of marketing services is at its lowest point since 1977, maybe even lower than since the Second World War?

You may have guessed it it’s the recession.

But it will get better, Martin Sorrell, CEO of advertising giant WPP, said.

“The recession is less worse,” Sorrell said, repeating a favourite phrase of late, and while it’s the biggest recession since 1929 it is also “a perfect storm” that has brought forward change. 

“Rich, retired and gone”

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Veteran insolvency expert Nick Hood gave the restructuring summit a sobering reminder of the shortcomings of corporate finance.

“Every time we have a recession I sit down with the head of workout for bank clients and ask what banks are going to learn,” said Hood, who first qualified as an accountant in 1970.

Welcome to the 2009 Reuters Paper and Packaging Summit

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The global paper industry has struggled for more than six years to claw its way out of a slump, as soft demand and overcapacity have kept prices down, leading to poor earnings, production curtailments and layoffs.

The current global downturn has further eroded demand for basic materials, including paper, as print advertising has dropped steeply in the crisis. Companies have been forced to run just to stand still, temporarily or permanently shutting mills and axing staff.

Retail in recession: bottoms, bananas and breeding

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So, what did we learn from executives in the hard-hit luxury and main street retail sectors this week at the Reuters summits?

The idea of a “new normal” age of lower consumerism was in vogue, with many executives expecting consumers to continue to be thrifty for some time. Conspicuous consumption may be dead, they say.

Corning CFO and the economist who predicted 8 of the past 4 recessions

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When this is recession number seven for you, the state of the economy begins to drop into perspective — even if the pain is still real.

The chief financial officer of Corning glass, James Flaws, told the Reuters Global Technology Summit in New York that he read from the 158-year-old company’s official history and drew on his own experience to explain to younger managers what these downturns mean.

Islamic finance just one more crisis victim?

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It’s not just traditional western banks that are hurting — the recession is hitting Islamic finance hard, too.

The industry, which operates according to Islamic law and hence has an in-built conservative investment strategy, is seen as relatively insulated from the financial crisis. But some executives at the Reuters Islamic Banking and Finance Summit are not so sure.

from Shop Talk:

Let them eat steak

meatTired of paying high prices for everything from soup to cereal? See your butcher.

While food makers like Kellogg and Campbell Soup have yet to take back price hikes on boxes of cereal and cans of soup spurred by last year's spike in commodity costs, beef companies have to move their premium, perishable product in a environment where restaurants aren't buying and consumers are pinching pennies. 

Recession? Not at Reckitt, really

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The recession has hit U.S. consumers, yet Reckitt Benckiser has not felt as much of a pinch.  The maker of Lysol disinfectants and Air Wick air fresheners said shoppers did not shy away from its products even as the overall household products industry felt the impact of pantry destocking, or consumers using up what they had at home rather than buying more products.
   
Rob De Groot, head of the group’s North America and Australia region, told the Reuters Food and Agriculture Summit in Chicago that he did not see a massive consumer destocking.  Click here to hear his comments

De Groot expects Reckitt’s U.S. market share to rise this year, even as the overall market remains flat.

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