NEW YORK (Reuters) - If we gave you a million dollars today, where would you invest it?
That was the question posed to executives at the Reuters Global Technology Summit this week -- with the caveat that they couldn’t pick their own company, of course.
It’s not an easy answer in these uncertain economic times, when even the most bullish of executives are willing to bet only that the worse might be over but not when the recovery might gain more traction.
Most executives stuck to their areas of expertise, be it the Internet, software or consumer electronics.
“If you want the quick answer, I would invest it in Twitter,” said Tim Draper, managing director of venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson. “I‘m sorry that we weren’t in it. I don’t know where it’s going and it would be a fun ride.”
Biz Stone, co-founder of the fast-growing microblogging site Twitter, said he would invest in some of his friends’ start-ups, such as travel website Trazzler.
“I would love to work more with some of these interesting start-ups like kiva.org that are developing interesting and innovative ways to create micro-lending programs for folks around the world,” he added.
When asked if there were any public companies he would pick, Stone said, “I‘m not a real big stock guy. Maybe a little Apple (AAPL.O), a little Google (GOOG.O) -- companies I use every single day, so why not invest in them?”
Another Internet executive, Yahoo Inc YHOO.O Chief Technology Officer Ari Balogh, also stayed close to home.
“The most vibrant industry is ours. We complain but the reality is we’re making money,” he said, but would not specify names for fear they would be interpreted as targets for Yahoo.
“Lala,” he finally said, stressing that Yahoo was not pursuing the digital music start-up, which lets users play music from their web browser. “It’s iTunes without having to download .... You take music on the go. It’s a really nice design.”
Some executives like Sybase Inc SY.N Chief Executive John Chen and AT&T Inc (T.N) Mobility President Ralph de la Vega recommended the health care sector.
“The pharmaceutical companies have been beaten down a lot,” Chen said. “As the population ages, everybody needs more medical help. Pharmaceuticals, drugs are a big part of it.”
Quite a few other executives, including Nvidia Corp (NVDA.O) Chief Executive Jen-Hsun Huang and Konica Minolta Holdings Inc (4902.T) Senior Executive Officer Shoei Yamana liked alternative energy, counting on long-term growth.
“Green energy, absolutely. Biodiesel. I think it’s got the best upside,” said Symantec Corp (SYMC.O) Chief Executive Enrique Salem.
Only one executive, Dell Inc DELL.O enterprise chief Steve Schuckenbrock, was bold enough to venture into the battered financial industry. But he hedged his bet by splitting his $1 million three ways: in financial services, technology and natural resources.
“The financial sector will come back. I think some smart investment in the financial sector makes sense,” he said.
Corning Inc (GLW.N) CFO Jim Flaws urged diversification as well, saying, ”Because I‘m 60, I would probably put half in corporate bonds, spread them around, get a nice interest rate on them. And I would probably put some into energy because I am a long-term believer that energy costs are going to continue to climb, and I think they’ve gotten depressed.
With consumer demand seeming to show a little more strength than corporate spending, some executives suggested putting money in consumer plays.
“I like very much these electronic readers,” said SanDisk Corp SNDK.O Chief Executive Eli Harari. He called Amazon’s (AMZN.O) Kindle a step in the right direction, but said there was still room for a lot of innovation in that space.
“It’s got to be like a $49.95 product, not a $300 or $400. It’s got to be for the masses. It’s got to bring educational qualities to kids in the Amazon, 1,000 miles away from civilization,” Harari said.
Gree Inc (3632.T) CEO Yoshikazu Tanaka picked Apple Inc, a favorite with past summit guests: “Apple’s ability to develop products is incomparably better than others.”
But given the economic turmoil, it’s no surprise that some executives chose to play it safe,
“I’d put it in the bank probably. Definitely not in the automotive industry,” said Marvell Technology Group Ltd (MRVL.O) CEO Sehat Sutardja.
Reporting by Tiffany Wu; Editing by Edwin Chan, Richard Chang