USA VS RUSSIA: STAY CLEAR
Citigroup said its chief executive Mike Corbat had withdrawn from an investment summit hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin as other US chiefs look to avoid the conference.
People familiar with the matter said Lloyd Blankfein, chief executive of Goldman Sachs, and other CEOs were likely to delegate to more junior colleagues at the high-profile investment forum in St Petersburg on May 22 as political tensions grow between the US and Russia.
Some US bankers may decide definitively at the last minute depending on the political environment, the people said. Citigroup said in a statement on Thursday that Mr Corbat would not be able to attend the conference but "will have several representatives at the forum".
Mr Corbat and Mr Blankfein are listed as confirmed participants along with others including James Gorman, chief executive of Morgan Stanley, and Indra Nooyi, chief executive of PepsiCo.
Companies are liaising to try to work out how to avoid offending either the Russian or US governments, according to people familiar with the matter.
The moves come as secretary of state John Kerry on Thursday launched a scathing attack on Russia's activities in eastern Ukraine, accusing it of "gross intimidation".
Political tensions between Russia and the west have reverberated in the financial markets and have strained international banking relationships.
Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation and Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, two of Japan's largest banks, have stepped back from Russia in recent weeks, bankers and executives told the Financial Times this month.
Russian banks have responded. VTB Capital, the state-controlled Russian bank, cancelled its New York investment conference scheduled for earlier this month and, separately, has also cut staff in the US.
The major international oil companies are also well represented, including by Ben van Beurden, chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell, Bob Dudley, chief executive of BP and Christophe de Margerie, chairman of Total.
Last year's St Petersburg international economic forum received delegates from 81 countries and resulted in contracts worth about $294bn being signed, according to the conference website. More than 1,000 journalists are said to have attended.
Charlie Scharf, chief executive of Visa, who is also listed as a confirmed participant at St Petersburg, said on Thursday that the payment processor had noticed a significant decline in cross-border volumes in Russia and Ukraine, with sanctions likely to further affect volumes.
"We are caught between the politics of the US and the politics of Russia," he said as Visa reported first-quarter earnings.
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