Executives upbeat, says gloom not universal

Davos, Jan 26 | Updated: Jan 27 2008, 04:11am hrs
Central bankers and stock market investors may have headed for the bunkers this week but economic gloom is far from universal in the real world, to judge from comments by top executives in Davos.

The big question on everybodys lips at the World Economic Forum is whether the US economy is facing a slowdown or a full-on recession.

Coca-Cola chief executive Neville Isdell is one of those betting on the latter, predicting a greater than 50% risk the US economy will shrink this year, though the world as a whole will still see expansion.

Many of his peers, however, disagree and remain surprisingly optimistic.

Dow Chemical boss Andrew Liveris, whose customers represent a broad range of industries, sees a soft landing and a possible pick-up for the US economy in the second half of 2008.

Id still use the word growth I might put the word slow in front of it, he said. Whats going on now should not have a Chicken Little atmosphere. The sky is not falling.

Royal Dutch Shell head Jeroen van der Veer agreed. We dont see any reason for panic, he said.

US communications equipment company Avaya also said fears of an economic slowdown were overblown and CEO Louis DAmbrosio said he did not expect a dramatic drop in US capital spending.

Many executives are smiling through. That is particularly true for multinationals based in emerging markets like China and India, where confidence in revenue growth is at record levels, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.