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From September 29 to October 1, Milan welcomed guests to the 7th annual International Forum of Sovereign Wealth Funds (IFSWF). The event was organized by the Strategic Fund of Italy.
The event is taking part against the backdrop of Milan’s hosting of the 2015 World Expo, which began in May and ends at the end of October.
On the first evening, an informal meeting was held on the 25th floor of the Diamond Tower, a new high-rise building in Milan’s business district that was built for the 2015 Expo Milan. This project was supported by several sovereign funds, including Qatar.
Dinner was followed with cocktails and was limited to 100 guests who enjoyed seafood accompanied by forte piano.
Russia was represented by the Russian Direct Investment Fund and its CEO Kirill Dmitriev, who held meetings with other sovereign wealth fund leaders.
The next morning, at the hotel Principe di Savoia, the business program started with an address from Italy’s Minister of Economy and Finance, Pier Carlo Padoan,
Padoan welcomed guests and boasted about Milan’s transformation in preparing to host this year’s expo, and also noted the unprecedented economic growth Italy has achieved. Italy only just emerged from recession in beginning of this year, GDP is forecast to grow 0.9 percent in 2015. He said Italy plans to go ahead with reforms, such as changing the pension system, cutting taxes in 2017, and other steps to make Italy more attractive for investment.
Arian Orr, the IFSWF Chair and CEO of New Zealand’s sovereign fund, introducedPodoan. New Zealand will host the IFSWF in 2016 in Auckland, New Zealand. Orr welcomed the newest members of the organization – Kazakhstan, Morocco, Palestine, and Oman. He ended his speech by stressing the important role that sovereign funds play in strengthening the financial stability in countries.
The forum then continued in panel discussions and round tables. The topics were: global financial stability, prospects and potential challenges in management of government assets, and next steps in making business more transparent.
In the evening, guests were invited to a luxurious reception at Palazzo Realle, in a hall with mirrors and architectural modelling, and with a view of Duomo and the central square of Milano. Over 300 guests enjoyed traditional Italian cuisine.
The next morning’s meeting was held at an EXPO conference centre and was all about investing in Italy. Beyond fashion, food, and furniture, other areas of production in machinery, pharma, airplanes, and ships were emphasized. Recent acquisitions of Lamborghini and Ducati by Audi and purchase of 49% shares of Alitalia by Etihad Airlines were mentioned as good examples by Carlo Calenda, Vice-Minister of Economic Development.
Sergio Ermotti, Group CEO at UBS Group AG, also took the stage and said as an investor he was really looking forward to reforms int he judicial system.
“This system is absolutely non-predictable and irresistibly slow. How one can invest if he cannot defend his own rights?” – he asked.
Finally, a pros and cons discussion was held, and guests had lunch and the forum came to a close.