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Trade Shows, Greek Debt Talks Damaged by Flight Havoc

Passengers look at departure information
Passengers look at departure information at Terminal 3 at Heathrow Airport in London, on April 15, 2010. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

European business events including trade fairs in London and Milan and talks on a loan package for Greece have been diminished, delayed or canceled because of flight disruptions caused by volcanic ash from Iceland.

U.S. bank Morgan Stanley told clients “stuck in London” following an analyst day for Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s Asda unit that it can arrange desk space, analyst and management meetings, and store tours to fill their time. The Salone del Mobile in Milan, the world’s biggest furniture and design fair, had fewer visitors than expected because of travel restrictions.

“About half of the clients we were expecting didn’t show up” in Milan, said Maurizio Peregalli, a designer at Zeus, which makes furniture and lighting. “Our business has been hit hard by the groundings.”

Traffic authorities across Europe imposed a flight ban after Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted April 14, spewing dust across Europe. The ash, which can clog plane engines, has resulted in the cancellation of about 81,000 flights and prompted the closure of airports from Dublin to Moscow. Air France-KLM Group, Europe’s largest airline, is among carriers pushing European governments to ease restrictions.

The World Retail Congress in Berlin, set to host Burberry Group Plc Chief Executive Officer Angela Ahrendts, Kingfisher Plc CEO Ian Cheshire and WPP Plc CEO Martin Sorrell, was postponed until October.

‘Huge Difficulties’

“Many speakers and delegates faced huge difficulties reaching Berlin in time for the event,” the organizers said today in a statement. The conference had been scheduled for April 21 to April 23.

The London Book Fair, the biggest gathering of international literary agents and publishers, predicts a difficult start today, said exhibition director Alistair Burtenshaw.

“The show must -- and will -- go on and we will provide all the help we can to ensure it runs as smoothly as possible,” Burtenshaw said in a statement on the fair’s Web site.

U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown and opposition Conservative Party leader David Cameron canceled campaign trips to Scotland today ahead of the May 6 elections.

1,000 Miles by Car

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi scrapped talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Merkel kept an appointment to open a trade fair in Hanover today after a three-day detour on her return from the U.S. Italian Industry Minister Claudio Scajola attended the opening of the event, co-sponsored by Italy, by traveling almost 1,000 miles in a car.

The Greek government’s talks with the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission about an emergency loan package will be delayed until April 21, the Greek Finance Ministry said yesterday.

Riksbank Governor Stefan Ingves was unable to participate in an interest rate meeting today in Stockholm because he’s abroad and couldn’t get back, the Swedish central bank said.

Inrev, the European Association for Investors in Non-listed Real Estate Vehicles, said today that it canceled its annual meeting in Venice, scheduled to begin April 22. Nouriel Roubini, the New York University economist who predicted the financial crisis, was among the speakers.

Chocolate, Hoops

Other cancelations extended to chocolate producers, academics, drug companies and basketball players.

The UN Cocoa Conference in Geneva, scheduled to start April 19, was canceled, the International Cocoa Organization said.

The London School of Economics canceled a public lecture titled “The Future of the Dollar,” led by a professor from Cornell University in New York. The Chatham House research center in London canceled talks by Prem Shankar Jha, author of “Crouching Dragon, Hidden Tiger” and Franklin Miller, a former senior director of the U.S. National Security Council.

IMS Health Inc. rescheduled a London event about new distribution models for the drug industry because some speakers “are stranded outside the U.K,” the research firm said.

The U.S. embassy in Madrid canceled an event this evening with professional basketball player Marc Gasol, who was unable to fly to Spain from the U.S.

Volcanic ash can cause jet engines to fail by melting and then congealing in the turbines. Test flights in Europe have been successful so far, according to airline executives. The ash cloud may reach the coast of Newfoundland today, the U.K. Met office predicted.

Airline Revenue

Lost airline revenue is rising to as much as $300 million a day, according to the International Air Transport Association. IATA predicted that it will take as long as six days for traffic to get back to normal once a ban ends, as carriers work through a backlog of stranded passengers and reposition planes.

Puma AG, the second-largest European sporting-goods maker, postponed its “World Cup 2010 Press Day” event scheduled for today in Herzogenaurach, Germany, due to the air traffic disruptions, according to an e-mailed note.

In Dublin, an awards ceremony for the global stadium industry was postponed last night. More than 150 executives from sports teams and stadiums, including Red Bull New York and Manchester United Ltd., were to attend the conference this week.

“With speakers stuck in Mexico, Istanbul, the U.S. and even the U.K., it was clear that we had to reschedule,” said Ian Nuttall, CEO of event organizer Xperiology. “We’re currently in the process of fixing new dates this June. Hopefully by then the dust has settled.”

Cobalt, Mining

The Cobalt Conference 2010 in Cape Town set to start April 21 was delayed as several speakers and many delegates were coming from or travelling through Europe. “We have reluctantly, but we think sensibly, decided to postpone the conference to later this year,” David Weight, general manager of the Cobalt Development Institute, said on the group’s Web site.

Rio Tinto Group, the world’s third-largest mining company, said it’s “looking at all contingency options” for its April 22 annual shareholder meeting in Melbourne.

Bayerische Motoren Werke AG canceled a press trip to visit a factory in Shenyang, China, ahead of the Beijing car show.

The 16th International Conference & Exhibition on Liquefied Natural Gas in Oran, Algeria was delayed until tomorrow because of the volcano.

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