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Confident start to first day of key Davos Forum

More than 2,500 business leaders, politicians and social activists kick off the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos Wednesday. They will discuss issues ranging from China's growing clout to simmering anxieties about Europe's debt crisis.


REUTERS - Organisers and CEOs at the annual Davos meeting are projecting confidence in the global economy as the event opens, despite numerous risks which could yet derail a still-fragile recovery.

World Economic Forum (WEF) chief Klaus Schwab, who hosts the annual meeting of top executives and politicians, highlighted opportunities in emerging markets. A CEO confidence survey for the event showed optimism almost back at pre-crisis levels.


The four-day event in the Swiss Alps will bring together at least 35 national leaders, led by the presidents of Russia and France, and over 1,400 business chiefs -- including the CEOs of Barclays, Nestle and Mitsubishi.

Bankers are keen to show their industry emerging successfully from the wreckage of the global financial crisis and politicians want to dispel the gloom hanging over the eurozone. Both will emphasise how important rapid growth in developing countries is to the global recovery.

"We want to make this meeting full of inspiration because, let's face it, there are so many opportunities with the new engines of growth in the world," the WEF's Schwab told Reuters Insider before the meeting, which begins on Wednesday.

"We are living in the post-digitalisation age, in the post-globalisation age and hopefully in the post-crisis age," he added. "We never had so many representatives from the BRICs ... they are all assembled here in full strength."

The meeting's official theme "Shared Norms for the New Reality" reflects a desire to ensure that the new big players on the global stage share the values of the existing major powers.

Keen to demonstrate the value of the tens of thousands of dollars paid by companies to participate, the WEF will launch a global risk network in Davos to help firms, governments and international organisations deal better with the complex web of interrelated risks facing the world.

"One of the moods we're starting to see here in Davos is the sense we need to be more proactive," WEF U.S. chief operating officer Kevin Steinberg told Reuters.

"We need to think about risk not only in terms of responding to events after the fact but structuring our thinking before, being prepared."

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who delayed his departure for Davos after a suicide bombing on Monday killed at least 35 people at Russia's busiest airport, delivers the opening speech on Wednesday.

The BRICs -- Brazil, Russia, India and China -- are helping drive a recovery that has taken optimism among chief executives back to almost the same level as before the financial crisis.

PricewaterhouseCoopers found 48 percent of 1,201 CEOs it surveyed were "very confident" they would grow revenues in the next 12 months -- close to the 50 percent level reached in January 2008 and up sharply on the 31 percent seen a year ago.

Brisk Brics

The IMF expected emerging and developing economies, including the BRICs, to keep up brisk growth in 2011, although the Fund noted inflation pressures rising, particularly from high food and energy prices.

With emerging economies accounting for almost 40 percent of global consumption, a slowdown in these economies "would deal a serious blow to the global recovery," the IMF said in an updated World Economic Outlook released on Tuesday.

Europe's festering debt crisis is another threat not just for policymakers but also for otherwise chipper CEOs.

"It's an uncertainty that is out there and it could potentially stifle the recovery efforts," said PwC Chairman Dennis Nally.

The IMF -- which has just raised its 2011 global growth forecast to 4.4 percent from 4.2 percent -- said Europe needs to strengthen its rescue fund to cut the risk of renewed global instability.

The Davos meeting, protected by tight security which includes the closing of local airspace, is the world's top networking event, allowing bankers and CEOs to rub shoulders with presidents and prime ministers, and to cut deals.

Some 4,000 troops have been deployed on land and in the air to protect the meeting, which runs until Jan. 30.

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