Wharton Istanbul Forum: Perspectives on Investing in Emerging Markets
The Wharton Global Alumni Forum, held June 8-9, 2006, focused on the theme of building bridges between markets, cultures and continents. The event was held in Istanbul, a city that straddles both Europe and Asia, and is itself a bridge between ancient civilizations and today’s modern secular world. Those who made presentations during the conference included “insiders” — ranging from Turkey’s prime minister to CEOs of Turkish companies — as well as “outsiders,” including members of private equity firms and executives of multinationals like Coca-Cola and Citigroup. All are looking to invest in Turkey and other emerging markets, not just in their economies but in their future as participants in an increasingly interconnected global community. As Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the conference: “In a world where tension and struggle tend to be contagious, we need to find common values. We need to cooperate and communicate. And when we speak of security and peace in the world, we know [that will happen] only if all societies benefit equally from the fruits of globalization.” Building bridges, he said, “is the most important issue of the 21st century.”
Below, Knowledge@Wharton offers coverage of the event, including different perspectives on investing in emerging markets, the challenges multinationals face when they move into developing economies, and the increasingly important role of logistics in connecting the global marketplace. We also report on Prime Minister Erdogan’s view of Turkey’s role in regional prosperity, and the attempts of one man to build bridges to peace in the Middle East.
At the start of the Wharton Global Alumni Forum’s June 9 panel on investing in emerging markets, Assaad Jabre, acting executive vice president of the International Finance Corp., offered a succinct view of the future: “Emerging markets will be the winner of the globalization process,” he stated. “A few years ago, many people were saying that developing countries would be the victims. We know that won’t be the case. China, India, Turkey and others are success stories.” One major reason for this, he said, “is the growth of the private sector in those countries.” Jabre was joined on the panel by Harry Alverson, managing director of The Carlyle Group, who spoke from the perspective of an investor in emerging markets, Tezcan Yaramanci, chairman of Bank Europa Turkey; Yavuz Canevi, chairman of TEB-BNP, and Yosef Shiran, CEO of Israel-based Tefron.
Just hours before he spoke at the Wharton Global Alumni Forum in Istanbul on June 8, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, met with approximately 700 businesspeople attending the Turkey-Arab Economic Forum. The group’s agenda includes finding ways to increase economic cooperation in the region. “The more trade there is, the more prosperous and peaceful the world will be,” Erdogan told the conference. It was a theme he echoed in his remarks at the Wharton Forum, during which he touched upon such issues as the business climate for international investors in Turkey, his country’s application for admission to the European Union, Cyprus reunification, the Arab-Israeli conflict, Turkey’s relationship with the U.S., and the United Nations’ Alliance of Civilizations project initiated by Spain’s prime minister and co-sponsored by Erdogan.
Todd S. Thomson, chairman and CEO of global wealth management at Citigroup, and Muhtar Kent, president of Coca-Cola International, clearly head up vastly different operations, but during keynote speeches at Wharton’s Global Alumni Forum in Istanbul June 8-9, they shared a sense of opportunities still to be realized in a number of emerging markets in the Middle East, Asia and Latin America. While Thomson emphasized the strong fundamentals of emerging market economies, he also noted the inherent volatility and risk of investing in these regions. Kent, responsible for capitalizing on opportunities in the food and beverage area outside of North America, acknowledged the challenges that come with managing a brand that is both profitable and, in some countries, controversial.
During a panel discussion titled, “Logistics: Bridge to Global Prosperity,” at the June 8-9 Wharton Global Forum in Istanbul, moderator George Day described logistics as “the connective tissue that makes the global economy work.” Logistics, he said, can be “a huge source of competitive advantage and help expand and launch new business models.” Combined with information technology, he added, logistics can “dramatically extend the geographic reach of both large and small organizations.” To explain the ever-expanding role of logistics, Day, a Wharton marketing professor, was joined on the panel by Michel Akavi, CEO of DHL Worldwide Express, Middle East, Mirzan bin Mahathir, executive chairman and president of Malaysia-based Konsortium Logistiks Berhad, and Yavuz Cizmeci, chairman of Turkey’s ACT Airlines.
Nabeel Shaath, former deputy prime minister and minister of information for the Palestinian National Authority, has devoted decades of his life trying to establish peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. Given the most recent escalations in this conflict, he told his audience at the June 8-9 Wharton Global Alumni Forum in Istanbul, he has yet to reach that goal. Shaath, however, remains intent on bridge building, the political kind, because without this, he says, it is not possible to build the trade and economic bridges that are so important for global prosperity. Political bridge building means finding common interests between what he describes as “two classic victims. Israelis as Jews are victims of murder and crimes unparalleled in the 20th century. In their search for a homeland, they chose my country. That made us the victim’s victim. We have become two peoples in a struggle to find a home in one place, the holy land.”