Five months after losing re-election, an unshaven French ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy appeared Thursday at a New York banking conference and reportedly said he looked forward to a "new life", AFP reports.
Sarkozy spoke for about 50 minutes at the invitation of Brazil's BTG Pactual bank in Manhattan's luxury Waldorf Astoria Hotel, where tight security kept the event well out of the public eye.
Sarkozy has stayed out of the limelight since losing the presidency to his Socialist challenger Francois Hollande in May, spending much of his time on holiday in Canada, Morocco and on the French Riviera with his wife, ex-supermodel Carla Bruni.
He has made just one public statement, criticizing Hollande's policy on the war in Syria.
French Morning, a website for the French community in New York, published what it said was Sarkozy's closely guarded speech in which he told the audience he was interested in the business world.
"I want a new life, but not just to go to conferences," he said in French, according to the text. "What I like isn't politics, it's doing -- doing in politics or something else."
"I would so like to show that one could have been a politician and can understand business," he was quoted as telling the bankers.
At the start of the text, Sarkozy was quoted as quipping in English: "I am a new retiree. Young, maybe, retiree certainly. I haven't worked for five months. I never had so long vacations in my life. And the worst thing is I was very happy with the situation."
"I used to do speeches everyday. Today is my first speech since the presidential election," he added.
The text could not be immediately confirmed.
Participants at the conference said Sarkozy had seemed relaxed and mostly discussed European politics and history.
"He put the European crisis in the historical context that investors forget and also talked about emerging economies," one said. Another participant said Sarkozy was "very charismatic."
Sarkozy, wearing a blue suit and sporting a light beard, declined to take questions from waiting journalists as he arrived at the event. Earlier in the day, he'd gone jogging in Central Park, out of sight of cameras.
He was due to leave New York on Saturday.
"He's very honored to have been invited to this conference," an aide said.
Former statesmen can earn large speaking fees, but it was not immediately clear how much Sarkozy might have been paid for the New York appearance, particularly given his limited English proficiency.
Back in France, opinions were split on whether the US trip marked the start of a post-presidential career on the lecture circuit or if the French right-winger had secret plans to make a political comeback.