Billionaire Braves Bloated Self-Importance for Davos ChatMatthew G. Miller and Toni Parsons
Filipino mogul Enrique Razon loathes rubbing shoulders with fellow billionaires in Davos.
“It’s loaded with bloated self-importance,” the casino and cargo-terminal owner said in an interview today in the Swiss village, where he was wrapping up his second trip to the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting. “I’m here to do business, not save the world.”
Razon, who controls a $4.7 billion fortune, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, is one of at least 80 billionaires in town. Most have spent their time attending panels on the state of the global economy, debating income inequality and attending parties with bankers.
Razon, 53, said he flew to Switzerland from his home in the Philippines to meet with a delegation of politicians from Nigeria. Just getting to them proved notably annoying.
“It’s like going through an airport five or six times a day,” he said, referring to the maze of police checks and metal detectors before attendees can enter the event’s Congress Centre.
Last year, Razon’s International Container Terminal Services Inc. signed a deal to develop and operate a port in Lagos, Nigeria, by 2016, investing $225 million in the venture. He said the country was the best place to invest in 2014.
“They produce over 2 million barrels of oil a day, huge population, GDP close to $300 billion,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg TV. “They need power, they need ports, they need many things. The government is much more serious than in the past of trying to build up infrastructure and build the economy. They are a very powerful consumer economy.”
Nissan Motor Co. is planning to produce its first cars in Nigeria in April. The company’s chief executive officer, Carlos Ghosn told President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday in Davos he sees demand of as much as 3 million cars a year in the country.
The Nigerian delegation, including Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest person, passed out green and white scarves to conference attendees on Wednesday, many of whom wore them throughout the day.
Razon found himself in the minority in his global outlook too. International investors are the most upbeat about the global economy than at any time in almost five years, according to a Bloomberg Global Poll released on the eve of the WEF. A handful of billionaires attending the event said they expect to be richer by the time they return next year.
“The reality is business has been run by monetary policy since 2009. Period,” he said. “Liquidity has sort of reflated the bubble. We’re sort of in that party mode. You can go broke saying when the party’s going to end, but my feeling is absolutely it’s going to end.”
Razon, who doesn’t gamble and says he is more comfortable operating a port crane than glad-handing high-rollers, said that Bloomberry Resorts Corp., his gambling company that operates the $1.2 billion Solatire resort in Manila, will have stronger growth this year than his containers business.
“We need to grow our infrastructure, especially airports,” he said. “We have the competitive facility, but other things need to follow to be really competitive.”
He said it would take between five and 10 years for the infrastructure to be in place.
Razon, who travels about 200 days a year for business, is leaving Davos today to return to the Philippines. He said he was looking forward to leaving the optimism behind.
“There will be more pain,” the billionaire said. “I feel it’s going to blow, but I can’t say when.”