UK prime minister Rishi Sunak has appointed former Morgan Stanley executive Franck Petitgas as his new business and investment adviser, as the government contends with bleak economic forecasts and high inflation.

French-born Petitgas, who retired in November last year after almost 30 years at the US investment bank, took up the role on Tuesday, Downing Street insiders confirmed.

By the time of his retirement, Petitgas, who holds the Légion d’honneur, France’s highest civil and military award, was in charge of the bank’s international operations outside the US while working from London.

His appointment comes as Sunak seeks to boost business investment and deliver on his “people’s priorities” of growing the economy and halving inflation by the end of this year.

“Franck brings with him over 35 years’ experience in business, including at a very senior level, and commands a fantastic network across different sectors,” said one Number 10 insider. “He’ll take forward a positive business agenda, driving innovation and productivity to help deliver the prime minister’s promise to grow the economy.”

In an effort to spur innovation, Sunak in February split the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy into three separate ministries for energy security, science and technology, and business and trade.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, meanwhile, announced a 100 per cent tax break for business investment and a range of measures to tackle inactivity in the labour market in his Budget last month.

But stark economic forecasts published by the IMF on Tuesday highlighted the scale of the challenge. In its twice-yearly World Economic Outlook, the fund predicted that the UK economy would shrink by 0.3 per cent while countries including France and the US expanded.

The UK remains the only G7 economy not to have returned to its pre-coronavirus pandemic size. Meanwhile business investment has stagnated since the Brexit vote in 2016, and the Bank of England’s chief economist this month hinted that more interest rate rises may be needed to reduce inflation, which stood at 10.4 per cent in February.

The last person to hold the role of business adviser to the prime minister was Alex Hickman, who served under Boris Johnson in 2020. After leaving the position last year, Hickman joined US public relations group Teneo as a senior managing director in November 2022.


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