2014 World Economic Forum meet sees high-profile exits even before start

Written by PTI | Davos | Updated: Jan 20 2014, 19:52pm hrs
WEFPakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has cancelled his visit to WEF annual meeting after a deadly Taliban attack in his country. Reuters
As this Swiss ski resort town gets ready to host World Economic Forum's annual meeting, some high profile participants have already announced their no-shows at this much-awaited talk fest of rich and powerful from across the world.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has cancelled his visit to WEF annual meeting after a deadly Taliban attack in his country. He was scheduled to participate in a session on 'Eurasia: The Next Frontier' at WEF, and was also expected to hold a number of private meetings on the sidelines.

These meetings would have been significant as it was to be Sharif's first outing to such a large global business summit ever since he won an historic election in Pakistan last year.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was one of the star attractions here last year, also had to cancel her trip after a skiing accident.

From India, industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla will not be attending the meet, despite his initial confirmation. Besides, his compatriots Chanda Kochhar and Anand Mahindra had already decided to skip this year's WEF annual extravaganza despite being regulars here for the many past years.

Among Indian businessmen, it remains to be seen whether Vijay Mallya manages to make it to the summit, as troubles at his now-defunct airline venture Kingfisher has resulted into problems for his other ventures and have also cast a shadow on his big-ticket sale of majority stake in United Spirits to global liquor giant Diageo.

The top officials of Diageo are also among those expected to be present and those scheduled to meet them include Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, who is on his maiden foreign visit as head of the Western Indian state with eyes on foreign investments.

Among other Indian leaders, Tata group chief Cyrus Mistry and Reliance Industries head Mukesh Ambani are so far expected to be present, but neither of them are as yet scheduled to participate in any officials sessions.

However, both of them are expected to be separately attending a number of private meetings with businessmen and political leaders from across the world, which assume significance in the wake of overseas revenues accounting for a bulk of the respective top-lines of their groups.

The two top Indian industrialists are expected to come face to face also at a number of dinners and receptions hosted on the sidelines of WEF summit, including one hosted by Mistry himself on behalf of his group's IT arm TCS and an India Reception by industry body CII.

While nearly 40 heads of state and more than 1500 global CEOs are scheduled to be present, some big names are absent from the final list.

These include chiefs of technology giants like Microsoft (although founder Bill Gates is present), Google, Facebook and Apple, but Yahoo's young CEO Marissa Mayer is one of the co-chairs alongwith Infosys' Kris Gopalakrishnan.

Vodafone chief is also not here, although heads of PepsiCo, Coca Cola, Wal-Mart and ArcelorMittal are expected to be here.

Once a regular, Citibank's former CEO Vikram Pandit is also missing, while his successor and incumbent chief of global banking giant Mike Corbat has also given this summit a miss.

As yet, more than 100 business leaders from India are expected to be present, along with five union ministers -- P Chidambaram, Anand Sharma, Kamal Nath, Praful Patel and Jyotiraditya Scindia -- and Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia.

This could be their last WEF meeting in their current roles as the country is ready for general elections a few months later, probably in April.

Among the celebrities, actor Matt Damon, South Korea's Psy of Gangnam Style fame and Bono are expected to be present.