(Bloomberg) — The rapid downfall of crypto exchange FTX, distrust of big data and the future of the world economy were all key issues on the second day of the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Singapore.
Geopolitics also featured in the day’s discussions, with speakers weighing in on China’s policies following Xi Jinping’s consolidation of power, how to invest sustainably in Asia and the threat of hacking of businesses and governments.
Forrest Presses Firms to Quit Fossil Fuels (12:05 p.m. SGT)
Australian billionaire Andrew Forrest challenged corporations to quit fossil fuels, saying they need to stop leaning on trendy terms like “sustainability” and “ESG.”
“Chief executives and chairmen now no longer have an excuse not to step beyond fossil fuel,” Forrest said in a Bloomberg television interview on the sidelines of the New Economy Forum. “Let’s hold chairmen to account, let’s hold chairmen of remuneration committees to account.”
Forrest, who is founder and chairman of iron ore producer Fortescue Metals Group, said the technology already exists to decarbonize the majority of sectors. He dismissed claims that the current energy crisis was a result of underinvestment in fossil fuels, saying a lack of investment in energy more broadly was the cause.
Mastercard Chief on Business Prospects (11:50 a.m. SGT)
Mastercard Inc. Chief Executive Officer Michael Miebach sees Asia offering big promise for the company’s business, as well as travel that’s not yet back to historic levels. Consumer spending is resilient, he said in an interview on the sidelines of NEF.
Amid rising inflation, Miebach said consumers are finding ways to make ends meet, and firms have to be attuned to changing consumer behavior. He said the company will continue its crypto projects, while learning from the fallout of FTX’s blowup.
Hillhouse, Standard Chartered, Fidelity Chiefs Speak (11:40 a.m. SGT)
Lei Zhang, the founder and chairman of Hillhouse Investment Management Ltd., said private capital’s participation in financing the new economy will get a boost if the industry can tailor specific products with economic incentives for customers. He was speaking in an NEF session with bank chiefs and fund management heads.
Standard Chartered Plc Chief Executive Officer Bill Winters said it’s the responsibility of banks and investors to fund and lend to companies involved in the process to move away from fossil fuels. “The responsible thing to do right now is to allocate more into transition finance,” he said.
Anne Richards, CEO of Fidelity International, said she’s seeing more of the firm’s customers in Asia trying to find ways to enhance the climate-related sustainability element of their investment portfolios. “We’re seeing an increase in our clients here in Asia talking to us about what is the right way to reflect their concerns,” she said.
Cargill CEO Sees Lower Food Prices Coming (11:15 a.m. SGT)
Food prices will likely be lower next year, but global crop stockpiles, especially oilseeds, are very tight, Cargill CEO David MacLennan said. All it takes is one bad crop to press prices higher again, he added, saying food companies are doing all they can.
“We’ve done our job, and we’ve gotten food from where it’s produced to where it’s needed,” he said. “We’ve managed the volatility, we managed through supply chain disruptions.”
Climate change, geopolitics and supply chain disruptions are profound — they’re hard to predict and difficult to control, he said.
Singapore’s Teo, Mastercard Talk Data Protection (10:55 a.m. SGT)
Thoughtful regulation and more private sector engagement are among the moves needed to combat a rising distrust of data, Singapore’s communications minister Josephine Teo said. She said there is widespread recognition there’s a problem and there’s a need to help people rebuild their confidence in data.
Teo said if governments don’t know what they’re regulating, it will “end up doing more harm than good,” and piecemeal rules would never work.
On the same panel, Mastercard’s Miebach also said there’s no reason for the private sector not to step up in combating this problem. The question of “who’s going to attack us?” is one that keeps him up at night, he said.
Sarah Hanson-Young, a senator for South Australia, said that regulatory systems are years behind and big tech companies have taken advantage of this for far too long, with the government “playing massive catch-up.”
FTX is Crypto’s Lehman: bitFlyer Chief (10:28 a.m. SGT)
The meltdown of Sam Bankman-Fried’s digital-assets empire FTX is a “Lehman shock” to the industry, potentially causing more crypto firms to fail, said the chief executive officer and co-founder of major Japanese crypto exchange bitFlyer Inc.
“It’s a huge impact,” Yuzo Kano said in an interview with Bloomberg Television at the New Economy Forum, adding that the turmoil may push other firms into bankruptcy. “It may actually continue a little bit.”
Sequoia China Chief on Venture Capital (9:50 a.m. SGT)
Neil Shen, founder and managing partner of Sequoia Capital China, said there are seismic changes going on in the venture capital market. He pointed out that the industry had a run of easy years in which startup valuations would rise every six to nine months.
“The market has changed completely,” said Shen, whose firm is considered one of the elite players in the Chinese market. “Now you have to roll up your sleeves.”
He made the case that consultants and bankers have been active in the venture business in recent years, but a core skill is operational experience. If you’ve started a company, then you can make substantial contributions and help entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground. That kind of hard work is essential in the current market.
“That’s the only way venture capital can create value and create returns,” Shen said at NEF.
Geopolitics in Focus (9:05 a.m. SGT)
Great-power politics dominated the first session on day two, with panelists including James Crabtree of the International Institute for Strategic Studies saying it has been a “bad week” for Putin, and that US-China tensions over Taiwan aren’t going away.
Despite a positive meeting between Presidents Xi Jinping and Joe Biden this week in Bali, Crabtree said “I don’t think we’ll have to wait very long before we have the next crisis over Taiwan.” The tensions that followed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei in August “will become more common.”
Nisid Hajari, a Tokyo-based foreign affairs specialist on Bloomberg’s editorial board, said a NATO-style military bloc probably isn’t needed to deter China, and would struggle for support regardless.
Tradeshift Warns on Supply Lines (8:15 a.m. SGT)
Christian Lanng, the chief executive officer of supply chain specialist Tradeshift, said it would take decades for the west to recreate China manufacturing, if there was even any appetite for doing so. Pivoting supply chains takes five to 10 years and cannot be hurried.
Elevated interest rates are imposing an invisible financial strain on supply systems, which are generally quite fragile and weren’t prepared for global shocks like we’ve seen over the past year, he said on the sidelines of the NEF. Any new trade sanctions on Russia are unlikely to have a material effect, Lanng said during an interview broadcast on Bloomberg Radio.
The New Economy Forum is being organized by Bloomberg Media Group, a division of Bloomberg LP, parent company of Bloomberg News.
—With assistance from Juliette Saly, Michelle Jamrisko, Jane Zhang, Peter Elstrom, Takashi Nakamichi, Joyce Koh, Adrian Kennedy, Bill Faries, Tom Redmond, Vlad Savov, Jeff Sutherland and James Fernyhough.