Oil, Snow and Saudi Billions: Secret Davos Gets Down to Business

Davos 2017: Day Two at the World Economic Forum

Nothing sharpens the mind of Davos delegates more than the prospect of striking big deals -- and after a day of debating globalization and its discontents it was time to go for the biggest one of all.

The second day of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting ended with bankers flocking to a dinner held by Saudi Aramco, the state-owned oil company. And the parties were stocked by faces from the past and the present. Spotted across town last night: JPMorgan Chase & Co Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon, former U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron and Brazilian model Ana Beatriz Barros.

Jamie Dimon on Jan. 18.

Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Today, attention will turn to current British Prime Minister Theresa May, who will address the forum. She will also speak to Bloomberg Television in an interview.

Here’s a quick roundup of what you might have missed from Davos.

You Didn’t Hear About the Saudi Dinner?

Forget the cocktail parties. The hottest ticket last night -- and possibly of the week -- was the dinner hosted by Saudi Aramco, which is about to embark on the world’s largest initial public offering. 

The event at the $175 million egg-shaped InterContinental Davos, the town’s newest luxury hotel, drew the likes of Stuart Gulliver, the boss of HSBC Holdings Plc; Larry Fink, head of fund manager BlackRock Inc.; Joe Harlan, the vice-chairman of giant Dow Chemical Co.; and the cream of the Saudi business community. 

All to listen to speeches -- brief ones -- from Khalid al-Falih, the country’s oil minister, and Amin Nasser, the chief executive of Saudi Aramco. The IPO, scheduled for the second half of 2018, could raise $100 billion, four times more that the largest flotation so far. 

Why weren’t you there?

Bankers Are Getting Itchy Feet Over Brexit

May has taken aim at the global elite since becoming prime minister, telling her Conservative Party in October that “if you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere.”

Now the rootless upper class look set to prove her right as financiers start to get itchy feet over Brexit. HSBC’s Gulliver said in an interview with Bloomberg Television that staff generating about 20 percent of London revenue may move to Paris. Lloyds Banking Group Plc, Britain’s largest mortgage lender, is set to pick Frankfurt as its base for guaranteeing ties to the EU, according to a person familiar with the matter. And JPMorgan’s Dimon told Bloomberg that “it looks like there will be more job movement than we hoped for.”

That meeting today might be a little prickly.  

Biden Isn’t Going Quietly

Joe Biden, in his final 48 hours as vice president, took aim at Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday. Speaking in the plenary, Biden said he wasn’t going to "mince words" and accused Putin of carrying out cyber attacks, using energy as a weapon and spreading misinformation to undermine democracies. While Biden didn’t mention Donald Trump by name, he made references to many of the concerns Democrats have outlined about the president-elect in recent months.

Faces About Town

In the era of Trump and Brexit, many banks have scaled back -- or even canceled -- their Davos parties. Standard Chartered Plc and Bank of America Corp. are among lenders not hosting their typical soirees, while Citigroup Inc. and Barclays Plc are holding scaled down versions. Even Dimon is expected to have to skip out early from JPMorgan’s event on Thursday to catch a flight back to the U.S.

That said, there were still a lot of famous faces on the party circuit last night. Brazilian model Barros was spotted at the McKinsey party with her husband, while U.K. celebrity chef Jamie Oliver -- in town to talk about sustainable food-- was at a dinner hosted by public relations executive Matthew Freud.

And Cameron is back. He was at the Belvedere Hotel last night giving a dinner speech to accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. Sky News reported he received a speaking fee worth “tens of thousand” of pounds.

For more on Davos, see our special report on the World Economic Forum 2017.

— With assistance by Michael J Moore, and Annmarie Hordern

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