Matthew Campbell: The Davos set starts to love Donald Trump

The investors and executives who throng Davos every January are many things. However above all, they’re rich. And they’re starting to see plenty of opportunities to stay that way under Donald Trump.
Matthew Campbell: The Davos set starts to love Donald Trump

At coffee bars and cocktail parties in the Swiss town, which hosted the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting this week, conversation has often turned to how money can be made from the rise of a populist firebrand.

Amid all the panel-talk of reducing inequality and reinvigorating the middle class, the Davos set is hard at work looking for ways to safeguard and expand its wealth even as anti-establishment movements roil global politics.

That means enjoying the benefits of a Trump-driven boom in the US, where the business world is celebrating his pledges to slash taxes and loosen regulations.

Stock markets have surged to near record highs, and banks like Goldman Sachs and Citigroup have reported strong earnings.

“If you look at what’s happened to US bank stocks in the last six weeks, they’re up 30%,” said Huw Jenkins, the vice-chairman of Sao Paulo-based lender Grupo BTG Pactual.

“The US looks like it’s a great place to invest right now.”

Optimism about money-making opportunities under the Trump administration goes well beyond the markets.

The real estate mogul is stocking his cabinet with finance-friendly figures like billionaire investor Wilbur Ross and former Exxon Mobil chief Rex Tillerson.

And Trump’s promise to reinvigorate infrastructure spending, with the co-operation of a Republican-dominated Congress that will be eager to involve private firms, opens potentially huge business opportunities.

China Investment Corp, the country’s €765bn sovereign wealth fund, is “actively” seeking opportunities in US infrastructure and manufacturing, its vice-president said in Davos this week.

Spanish utility Iberdrola would be delighted to invest in new energy infrastructure in the US if Trump makes it a priority, CEO Ignacio Galan has said.

The sudden embrace of president Trump in Davos is jarring in its contrast with what many of its attendees said about him before.

The overwhelming majority supported either his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, or more mainstream Republican candidates, many on the grounds that they viewed the real estate mogul as dangerously volatile.

Former US treasury secretary Larry Summers said he’s “very troubled” by the turnaround, and the possibility it will “enable whatever the instinct of this new administration is”.


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