At World Economic Forum, bosses tread warily in rocky emerging markets

Jan 23 2014, 13:20 IST
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Emerging markets will still grow at a faster clip than developed markets this year. Reuters Emerging markets will still grow at a faster clip than developed markets this year. Reuters
SummaryWorld Economic Forum revelation shows MNCs becoming more picky about emerging markets.

World Economic Forum revelation: Multinational companies are becoming more picky about emerging market investments as slowing growth in upstart economies and a recovery in the West takes the shine off a previous sure-fire strategic bet.

Executives in Davos said they remained committed to tapping into rising middle classes from Shanghai to Lagos, but some are pulling back and redeploying resources in particularly difficult, low-margin regions.

"It was a gold rush. Now the gold rush is over," said Jeff Joerres, chief executive of staffing company Manpower Group , whose clients include many top international firms.

"In the past, regardless of industry and regardless of product, you just ran to those emerging markets because there was an arbitrage opportunity. Now there's a much more sanguine decision-making process."

The new mood follows a marked shift in the balance between the world's main engines of economic growth that will see developed economies, led by the United States, regaining their role as the central driver of global output in 2014.

Emerging markets will still grow at a faster clip than developed markets this year but the difference in growth rates will be the lowest since 2002.

The World Bank last week raised its forecast for global growth for the first time in three years, to 3.2 percent in 2014 from 2.4 percent in 2013. But it cut forecasts for developing countries to 5.3 percent for 2014, from 5.6 percent predicted in June.

MIDLIFE CRISIS?

The balance between emerging and developed economies is a central topic at this week's World Economic Forum annual meeting in the Swiss Alps, as highlighted by a session on Thursday entitled "BRICS in Midlife Crisis?"

Growth rates for Brazil, Russia, India and China are half their pre-financial crisis levels - and companies are taking a hard look at alternatives beyond the "big four".

The Middle East and Indonesia were highlighted as hot-spots for online growth by Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, while Marriott International boss Arne Sorenson said his group was opening a new hotel in Rwanda.

However, a top executive at a U.S. tech company, who did not want to be identified, said his firm was having an especially tough time in Brazil, with big uncertainties also in Russia, leading the company to look at deploying resources elsewhere.

In fact 60 percent of firms now expect to shift investment away from the BRICs towards other more rapidly growing markets, according to an Accenture survey of more than 1,000 executives.

"It's getting tougher and

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