World leaders prepare for Davos amid gloomy forecasts

Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum. (AFP)
Updated 18 January 2019

World leaders prepare for Davos amid gloomy forecasts

  • Delegates to annual forum to include presidents of Iraq and Afghanistan

DUBAI: World leaders are preparing to head to the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, amid the riskiest global backdrop in years, according to a report from the event organizer itself.

As the WEF announced the names of some of the 3,000 participants set to attend the meeting and details of the four-day agenda, it also published a gloomy outlook on international politics, economics, the environment and technology. 

Rising geopolitical and geo-economic tensions are the most urgent risks in 2019, with 90 percent of experts surveyed expecting further economic confrontation between major powers, according to the WEF’s annual Global Risks Report.

“The world’s ability to foster collective action in the face of urgent major crises has reached crisis levels, with worsening international relations hindering action across a growing array of serious challenges. Meanwhile, a darkening economic outlook, in part caused by geopolitical tensions, looks set to further reduce the potential for international cooperation in 2019,” it added.

Although political and economic worries were top of the immediate agenda for the 1,000 experts polled by the WEF, the environment and climate change are also a cause for concern, as are “rapidly evolving” cyber and technological threats, the WEF said.

Børge Brende, the WEF president, said: “With global trade and economic growth at risk in 2019, there is a more urgent need than ever to renew the architecture of international cooperation. We simply do not have the gunpowder to deal with the kind of slowdown that current dynamics might lead us toward. What we need now is coordinated, concerted action to sustain growth and to tackle the grave threats facing our world today.”

The leaders who will begin to arrive in Switzerland in the next week include Shinzo Abe, prime minister of Japan; Jair Bolsonaro, president of Brazil; Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany; and Wang Qishan, vice president of China.

With US President Donald Trump pulling out of the meeting to deal with the partial government shutdown, the American delegation is expected to be led by Steven Mnuchin, Treasury secretary, and Mike Pompeo, secretary of state.

The Middle East is well represented at the meeting, with at least nine heads of state or government from the region, including Palestine, Iraq, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon. Saudi Arabia will be represented by a team of senior policymakers and business leaders.

The risk report will give them all food for thought in the Alpine resort.

Asking whether the world is “sleepwalking into a crisis,” the report responded: “Global risks are intensifying but the collective will to tackle them appears to be lacking. Instead, divisions are hardening. The world’s move into a new phase of strongly state-centered politics continued throughout 2018.

“The idea of ‘taking back control’ — whether domestically from political rivals or externally from multilateral or supranational organizations — resonates across many countries and many issues.”

Macro-economic risks have moved into sharper focus, it said. 

“Financial market volatility increased and the headwinds facing the global economy intensified. The rate of global growth appears to have peaked,” the report said, pointing to a slowdown in growth forecasts for China as well as high levels of global debt — at 225 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP), significantly higher than before the financial crisis 10 years ago.

Raising the prospect of a “climate catastrophe,” the report said extreme weather, which many experts attribute to rapid climate change, was a risk of great concern. “The results of climate inaction are becoming increasingly clear,’ the WEF said.

Of the 3,000 participants at Davos, which runs from Jan. 22 to 25, around 78 percent are men, with an average age of 54. 

The oldest will be the 92-year-old British broadcaster David Attenborough, the youngest 16-year-old South African wildlife photographer Skye Meaker.

Workplace messaging startup Slack to list on Wall Street

Updated 49 min 48 sec ago

Workplace messaging startup Slack to list on Wall Street

  • The direct listing will raise no cash for the California-based firm but will enable employees and early investors to sell their shares in the fast-growing tech firm
  • Slack, which has become a popular application for businesses looking to move away from email to real-time messaging, said it had some 10 million users at the end of January

WASHINGTON: The workplace messaging startup Slack filed documents Friday to list its shares on the New York Stock Exchange, the latest of a group of richly valued tech enterprises to look to Wall Street.
The “direct listing” will raise no cash for the California-based firm but will enable employees and early investors to sell their shares in the fast-growing tech firm.
Slack, which has become a popular application for businesses looking to move away from email to real-time messaging, said it had some 10 million users at the end of January.
That included 88,000 paying customers and 65 of the Fortune 100 firms.
“Our vision is to make people’s working lives simpler, more pleasant and more productive,” Slack said in its filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission.
“Slack is a new layer of the business technology stack that brings together people, applications, and data — a single place where people can effectively work together, access hundreds of thousands of critical applications and services, and find important information to do their best work.”
Slack, which has users in 150 countries, has raised more than $1 billion from investors with the latest round valuing the company at $7.1 billion, making it one of the most richly valued “unicorns” — startups with private funding worth at least $1 billion.
In its first release of financial data, Slack said it lost $141 million in the 12 months to January 31 on revenue of $400 million.
Created in 2013, Slack has been a leader in the new segment but faces competition from the likes of Microsoft, Facebook and others offering workplace collaboration tools.
Analysts say Slack has found a niche, especially among small- and medium-sized businesses.
Its clients include software giant Oracle, the French luxury goods maker LVMH, Liberty Mutual insurance and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
It is available in eight languages and gets about one-third of its revenue from outside the United States.
Slack’s chief executive and founder Stewart Butterfield was part of the team that started the photo-sharing service Flickr.
The direct listing, which was also used by the streaming music giant Spotify, does not add fresh capital to the firm but enables free trading of shares while avoiding the underwriting costs of a public offering.
Slack will trade under the symbol “SK.”