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International Economic Forum kicks off in St. Petersburg

May 22, 2014, 9:38 UTC+3

The main event of the first day would be the summit of global business leaders

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© ITAR-TASS/Ruslan Shamukov

ST. PETERSBURG, May 22. /ITAR-TASS/. The St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), which is the main platform for discussions on the Russian economy, has started on Thursday.

The forum will last for three days (through May 24). Its main topic is ‘Sustaining Confidence in a World Undergoing Transformation’. The same topic was chosen for the plenary meeting with participation of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin scheduled for May 23. The first day will be devoted to the business program.

6.5 thousand people from 72 countries, including 2.5 thousand business representatives will take part in SPIEF 2014. The participation of 140 heads of foreign companies and 469 Russian business executives is expected. The major part of top managers of the largest foreign corporations will come from Europe. In particular, the invitation was accepted by Philips CEO Frans van Houten, Head of Total Christophe de Margerie, CEO for Telenor Jon Baksaas, as well as Jørgen Buhl Rasmussen, President for Carlsberg, who manages the Baltika brewing company.

Under the pressure of their governments over the situation in Ukraine, 34 top managers of leading foreign companies, mainly USA-based, were forced to refuse from taking part in the forum. Many of them were regular participants of previous forums. The companies themselves do not sabotage the forum: in St. Petersburg, they will be represented by second rank top managers or regional directors. Deputy Minister of Economic Development of Russia Sergei Belyakov earlier confirmed to ITAR-TASS that the forum’s promoters sent letters to CEOs, who declined to take part in the forum, with guarantees that the refusal would not affect the business of these companies in Russia. Among those, who refused to come to SPIEF, are Alcoa CEO Klaus Kleinfeld, Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo, James P. Gorman of Morgan Stanley, Michael Corbat of Citigroup, Head of Enel Fulvio Conti, as well as Visa CEO Charlie Scharf.

The absence of some top managers of major international corporations at SPIEF 2014 will not affect the level and effectiveness of discussions and negotiations, according to officials and businesspeople polled by ITAR-TASS. In their view, the fact that the forum takes place in politically challenging times only adds to its significance. Among the tasks set before the forum’s participants is the search for answers to global challenges, sustaining confidence of foreign investors towards projects in Russia and the revealing of economical growth areas in the Russian economy.

Managers and businesspeople taking part in the forum are set to discuss the most relevant topics including prevention of recession, resuming the economic growth and capital inflow, as well as increasing the activity of Russian businesses in the eastern direction.

The main event of SPIEF’s first day will be the Global CEO Summit, which will comprise three board sessions devoted to the creation of stimuli for resuming economic growth. Representatives of businesses of leading economies will raise issues of international trade, infrastructure development, financial regulation, investment environment improvement and de-offshorization. All in all, 82 sessions in different formats are scheduled in the SPIEF 2014 program.

As usual, Russian companies coincide with SPIEF the signing of their investment agreements. At the last year’s forum, a record was set in the amount of value of the concluded contracts — 9.6 trillion rubles (about $300 billion). Of them, about 8.8 trillion rubles brought the agreement of Rosneft with China on oil supplies for 25 years. This year, at least 25 deals are expected to be signed at the forum. This figure is published in the official schedule, however, data on the signing of many contracts is kept secret. It is known that major Russian companies including Rosneft, Gazprom Neft, Rosseti, Sberbank, Rosatom, Rosnano, Rostelecom etc. are expected to strike deals at the forum.

The forum is taking place in Lenexpo exhibition center. This year, the overall amount of funding the forum makes about 1 billion rubles ($29.12 million). Russia’s Ministry of Economic Development has allocated 45.8 million rubles ($1.33 million), and the rest is contributions from partners and sponsors, as well as registration fees of the participants.

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