‘Politicians biggest hurdle facing global economy’ - Denis O’Brien

Telecoms entrepreneur among 80 billionaires attending Davos summit

 Billionaire Denis O’Brien has said the biggest hurdle facing the global economy is politicans. Photo: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Billionaire Denis O’Brien has said the biggest hurdle facing the global economy is politicans. Photo: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Wed, Jan 22, 2014, 09:40

Irish Telecoms entrepreneur Denis O’Brien has said the biggest hurdle facing the global economy is politicians.

Speaking in advance of the World Economic Forum, the Digicel chairman said: “They are more and more worried about their re-election than growing their economies.”

Mr O’Brien, who is one of 80 billionaires joining more than 2,500 business and political leaders in Davos this week, also said he was bullish on equities.

“I’m going to stick with global telecom stocks,” the 55- year-old billionaire said in an e-mail.

“I’m comfortable that the equity markets will continue to be better over time with increasing value and dividends.”

Mr O’Brien has attended Davos for more than a decade and flew in last year on his Gulfstream 550 jet plane for the event’s penultimate day.

He said if he had $100 million to invest, he would bet $40 million on Vodafone, $20 million in Indian telecoms company Bharti Airtel, $20 million in SoftBank, and $20 million in Bangkok-based Advanced Info Service.

“I am positive about 2014, but it will not be like 2013 in terms of SandP 500 index gains,” he said.

“The stock market will be up due to better global earnings and consumers doing better. Consumers are recovering their appetite for goods, as they are only now emerging from their version of the debt crisis.”

Billionaires attending the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting this week in Davos, Switzerland, expect to be richer when they return to the Alpine village next year.

About a half-dozen of the wealthiest participants, including Mr O’Brien, said stocks will rise, interest rates will remain low and they’d avoid investing in the virtual currency Bitcoin in 2014.

Enrique Razon, a casino and cargo terminal billionaire who doesn’t gamble and says he feels more comfortable operating a port crane than he does glad-handing a crowd of high-rollers, said he’d invest $100 million in Nigerian companies instead of stocks, Picasso paintings or Bitcoin.

“I believe there will be a correction coming” in the stock market, he said. “I’m not certain if this will happen in 2014.”

The Filipino billionaire funnelled $200 million of his own money into the Solaire Resort and Casino, a $1.2 billion gambling complex with 1,200 slot machines and 300 gaming tables that opened last March.

Billionaire Adi Godrej said interest rates would rise “somewhat in the developed world,” though he expects them to “come down in the developing world.”

Mr Godrej, who has visited Davos for more than 20 years, forecast that the bull market in stocks would continue. His family’s holdings, which include real estate and consumer goods, had revenue of $4.1 billion in the year ended March 2013 and are used by more than half a billion Indians every day.

As billionaires bet on accelerating growth and rising asset prices, income inequality is emerging as a key theme for this week’s annual meeting. A study released last week by the forum identified the income gap as the most probable menace to the global economy during the next decade.

Bloomberg