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Heard in Davos 2009: Dispatches from the Conference

  Thursday, 29 Jan 2009 | 4:51 AM ET

Could the SEC also Follow the UK's Lead?

Posted By: Kim Khan
"If it looks like a bank and quacks like a bank, we've got to capitalize it as a bank," FSA Chairman Lord Adair Turner tells CNBC. »Read more
  Wednesday, 28 Jan 2009 | 12:17 PM ET

Disillusionment in Davos

Posted By: Becky Quick

Turns out it does not send your step count back to some centralized database. Which means my bonanza score of 22,000 steps is gone!!!

Granted, some of those gain were ill gotten. About 17,000 of those were added by mistake when my pedometer went through the stupid security x-ray machine here.

But 5,000 of those steps were my real steps! And now they are gone.

I am done with the pedometer.

»Read more
  Wednesday, 28 Jan 2009 | 12:01 PM ET

Long Roads, Hubris, Oil and Beer

Posted By: Kim Khan

It takes several turns around the Congress Center to get the pulse of the meeting, but you can get into the groove fairly quickly after that. You relearn how to look at name tags instead of faces and pick up the whit badges that discern delegates and VIPs from the ordinary working press.

The mood is more serious that last year, but not more somber. A few intense discussions were drawing in participants from around the center in between session, although the requisite numbers were propped up at the Plenary Bar—a notable meeting spot.

One thing looks clear and that's that whatever can be done to solve the current crisis is going to take time.

A few buzz phrases: "multi-year plan," "not anytime soon," "it will get worse," "a long road."

Here's a snapshot of this afternoon action in the corridors and lounges:

Who Has a Monopoly on Hubris?

Stephen Roach, chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia, and New York Times financial columnist Floyd Norris (in the elite white-badge category, yet still a journalist) discussing another bad day to be a banker and whether it is the East or the West that feels more of a sense of entitlement to rule the economic world.

Doors Are Locked, Sorry

They're not kidding when they talk about demand for information at the seminars. Arcelor Mittal Chief Financial Officer Aditya Mittal was not allowed into a session after it had started, which ignited a flurry of headless-chicken like activity from personal assistants.

Mittal hurried out of the open area of the center, but don't worry, as a member of one of the world's wealthiest families he probably has somewhere nice to crash.

Brewing Reality

The big consolidation wave in the brewing industry is naturally going to slow down in the current climate, but it's the smaller companies looking for a buyer that have to face the sticker shock, SABMiller CEO Graham Mackay said.

Prices haven't adjusted to the reality that the buyers are facing, Mackay said. Demanding ten to 13 times earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization—based on trailing earnings—just aren't justifiable, he said, adding that it's not just cash deals facing problems.

"If you've got a stock price at seven and someone wants ten for their company, that's hard to justify to shareholders," he said.

Remember Oil?

In middle of all the conversations about banks and finance there was an oasis of academia discussing what the real price of oil is and where was the recent low points?

The group included two people from MIT, Daniel G. Nocera, The Henry Dreyfus Professor of Energy and Professor of Chemistry and Ernest Moniz, Co-Director of the Laboratory for Energy and the Environment.

More From CNBC.com

  • Take Bad Assets Out of Banks: Obama Adviser

  • "The US Banking System is Insolvent": Dr. Doom

  • Complete Coverage from Davos

  • »Read more
      Wednesday, 28 Jan 2009 | 11:15 AM ET

    What I Learned About My Co-Anchor From 3,800 Miles Away

    Posted By: Becky Quick


    Joe's pee smells after he eats asparagus.

    That's what he announced to me, and the rest of the world, on Squawk this morning.

    It wasn't completely out of the blue. We kind of pushed him there. By "we", I mean me and Linda Avey, the co-founder of 23andMe. 23andMe is a personal genomics company that collects your spit and discovers your genetic makeup.

    I know, it's a bit of a jump from spit to Joe's pee. But stay with me.

    »Read more
      Wednesday, 28 Jan 2009 | 9:08 AM ET

    Time for Burger King to Cater

    Posted By: Kim Khan

    If an army travels on its stomach, it's not surprising that the Davos army can be drawn by scents of comestibles.

    »Read more
      Wednesday, 28 Jan 2009 | 7:33 AM ET

    Not Gloom, but 'Now What?': Alcatel-Lucent CEO

    Posted By: CNBC.com

    Alcatel-Lucent CEO Ben Verwaayen is guest blogging for CNBC.com. Here are some of his thoughts related to us on the first day at Davos, including the shift from chit-chat to note- taking, the presence of Russia and China and if executives really travel here touting cost cuts.

    »Read more
      Wednesday, 28 Jan 2009 | 7:39 AM ET

    Infosys CEO Wants Innovation, More Veggie Options

    Posted By: CNBC.com

    Infosys CEO Kris Gopalakrishnan is guest blogging for CNBC at WEF. Here are some of his thoughts he related to us as the event gets underway, including what he hopes to see from the sessions, what his company discloses on banks and what he hopes to see at the buffet table.

    What Can WEF Achieve this Year?

    The world has completely changed from last year. Clearly after Sept. 15 it's a different world with economic turmoil.

    This provides an opportunity for us to look at what the things are that we need to do in three areas.

    1. Crisis of confidence. How do we restore trust, confidence in institutions so that economic activity can come back?

    In this regard, I also believe we have to look at how companies embrace values. Regulators can only do so much.

    2. Defining success. If it's defined only in financial terms, then you will have these situations repeating in the future. The solution includes society, it includes the environment, it includes a balance between short-term and long.

    3. The concept of risk itself. In some sense it's related to the second outcome of success. Risk will have to be defined better, with an understanding of the implications from a long-term perspective.

    Innovations are necessary for creating new business. But if the long-term implications are going to be negative we need to protect ourselves.

    What are the ways we can protect ourselves from the negative implications of innovation?

    What's New this Year?

    I am a vegetarian, so I hope there will be more choices available to vegetarians.

    Also, it's good for the environment. Vegetarians use less carbon and I'm happy to be a vegetarian. Also this year there is more participation from political leaders. It's going to be interesting.

    »Read more
      Wednesday, 28 Jan 2009 | 5:04 AM ET

    The Sunny(er) Side

    Posted By: Becky Quick

    Mostly, it's a pretty gloomy outlook here. But sometimes, you hear from those who have a sunnier disposition, at least relatively speaking.

    Sir Martin Sorrell of the WPP Group is one of those folks.

    Just finished taping an interview with Sir Martin where he said that while this downturn is severe, he expects things to look quite a bit better by the second half. (Again, relatively speaking.)

    »Read more
      Wednesday, 28 Jan 2009 | 4:37 AM ET

    Pedometer Setback

    Posted By: Becky Quick

    I've racked up 3,244 steps today, and it's only 10 am here.

    But I am very worried about my 22,000 step windfall from yesterday.

    My pedometer mysteriously reset itself last night and went back to zero!

    My goal for the day is to make it back to the registration center to make sure that they are keeping track properly.

    »Read more
      Wednesday, 28 Jan 2009 | 4:36 AM ET

    "The US Banking System is Insolvent": Dr. Doom

    Posted By: Kim Khan

    That was the opinion of economist Nouriel Roubini, of RGE Monitor, who was one of the first people to predict the housing crisis, speaking to "Squawk Box Europe" this morning.

    Expected losses of about $2 trillion exceed bank capital of about $1.5 trillion, Roubini said.

    Roubini had earlier said that total financial system losses could hit $3.6 trillion.

    And "schemes" to just buy so-called toxic assets may not work, because the "risk is it's going to take too much time to resolve the problem," he added.

    Instead Sweden's plan of nationalizing all insolvent banks, cleaning them up and then selling off the good assets to the private sector could be a better option, he said.

    The pessimism is not unusual for the economists nicknamed "Dr. Doom."

    But we'll see if that mood be reflected by the rest of the participants at WEF.

    Maybe a "Fantastic Four" of optimism will arrive to save the event from the rule of Doom.

    Chat at early participant registration indicated cautious optimism for President Barack Obama's stimulus bill.

    But that was the same thing I heard last year about the Bush stimulus.

    »Read more