Davos Diary: Central Lounge — the networking hub of the universe

All roads lead to the Central Lounge of the Congress Hall at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos. (AP Photo)
Updated 25 January 2019
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Davos Diary: Central Lounge — the networking hub of the universe

  • My daily tactic has been to get on the shuttle from Klosters for the 20-minute trip to Davos, head straight to the Congress Hall, and shack up in the Central Lounge
  • As long as you can keep hold of your table and seat for the day, you have a ringside location for the best flesh-pressing in the world

DAVOS: I am penning these lines from the networking epicenter of the universe, the veritable “ground zero” of schmoozing — the Central Lounge of the Congress Hall at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos.

Although some of the bigger beasts of the annual jamboree in the snow have stayed away this year — we all miss you, Donald and Vladimir — you would not know it from the stellar crowd in this venue. Virtually everyone who is anyone in the world of business, politics and media is here.

It is a journalist’s dream. My daily tactic has been to get on the shuttle from Klosters for the 20-minute trip to Davos as early as possible, head straight to the Congress Hall, and shack up in the Central Lounge.

As long as you can keep hold of your table and seat for the day, which is not always possible given the appetite for space here, you have a ringside location for the best flesh-pressing in the world.

For some reason, the Middle East contingent loves the Central Lounge, so you can hear the familiar sounds of Arabic and watch the chance encounters, the planned bilaterals and the (sometimes) awkward confrontations that take place when Saudis, Emiratis, Qataris and Egyptians are enclosed in a small space.

From time to time, the really big hitters pass through on their way to one of the upstairs meeting rooms. These people, such as head of state Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil and global superstars including Tony Blair, bring in their train the full entourage — bodyguards, advisers and attendant media — and leave a virtual shock wave in their wake. Questions from journalists are invariably declined with a tight-lipped shake of the head.

But others are far more chatty. The rules of the Central Lounge are clear: It is Chatham House, off the record, deep background only, unless you manage to get the agreement of person with whom you are chatting to use something they said for publication. In my experience, that happens rarely.

But perhaps that is a good thing, because it puts these celebrities at their ease, and they open up in a way they never would if there was a camera or a tape-recorder in front of them.

The encounters come faster than an Alpine avalanche. Sometimes you’re talking to one eminent business leader, and you see over their shoulder another, even more interesting, personality. The etiquette is that you fake an urgent phone call and head off to the new attraction.

In the space of 30 minutes this morning, I had fascinating conversations with Hussain Sajwani, chairman of Dubai real estate group Damac, followed by Jose Silva, the relatively new CEO of Dubai’s luxury hotels group Jumeirah. Then came Essa Kazim, governor of the Dubai International Financial Center.

Around and in between these fascinating encounters, there was a clutch of Saudi ministers, the Kingdom’s award-winning film director Haifaa Al-Mansour, the leading historian of the oil industry Daniel Yergin, and many financial “masters of the universe,” as well as a veritable constellation of glamorous media people.

Davos is famed for the quality of its night-time networking — which will be the subject of a subsequent diary — but for daylight schmoozing, leave me in the Central Lounge.
 

Frank Kane is an award-winning business journalist based in Dubai. Twitter: @frankkanedubai


Brent eases from 2019 highs as markets await US-China trade talks outcome

Updated 19 February 2019
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Brent eases from 2019 highs as markets await US-China trade talks outcome

  • The slight downward correction was driven by concerns about the health of the global economy this year
  • Bank of America Merrill Lynch expects Brent prices to average between $50 and $70 per barrel

SINGAPORE: Brent crude oil prices eased away from 2019 highs on Tuesday on caution that economic growth may dent fuel demand this year, although supply cuts led by OPEC still meant markets were relatively tight.
International Brent crude oil futures were at $66.08 per barrel at 0220 GMT, down 42 cents, or 0.6 percent from their last close, but still not far off the 2019 high of $66.83 a barrel hit in the previous session.
US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $55.71 per barrel. While that was up 12 cents from their last settlement, it was below the $56.33 2019 high from the previous day.
Traders said the slight downward correction was driven by concerns about the health of the global economy this year.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch said in a note that the Sino-American trade dispute was hurting economic growth globally.
“Addressing global trade tensions is key for improving the economic outlook,” it said in a note.
China’s vice premier and chief trade negotiator, Liu He, and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer lead a round of trade talks this week in Washington.
Considering the economic outlook and supply and demand balances, the bank said it expects Brent prices to average between $50 and $70 per barrel, “anchored around $60.”
Despite some caution around trade, global oil markets remain relatively tight because of supply cuts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), with top crude exporter Saudi Arabia cutting the most.
Saudi seaborne crude exports fell in the first half of February, with departures standing at 6.204 million barrels per day (bpd), a 1.341 million bpd decline on the previous month and 0.91 million bpd decline on the year, data intelligence firm Kpler said.
Further providing oil markets with support are US sanctions against petroleum exporters Iran and Venezuela.
Venezuela is a major crude supplier to US refineries while Iran is a key exporter to major demand centers in Asia, especially China and India.