Return to Transcripts main page


Crunch Time in Copenhagen; Ryanair Scraps Huge Boeing Order; End of the Road for Saab

Aired December 18, 2009 - 14:00:00   ET


RICHARD QUEST, HOST, QUEST MEANS BUSINESS: It is crunch time in Copenhagen as world leaders race to cut on the climate.

A major blow to Boeing, Ryanair scraps a huge order.

And General Motors shuts down Saab, the end of the road.

It may be Friday, but what a busy day. I'm Richard Quest and I mean business.

Good evening. They are trying to salvage an agreement. They want to combat global warming, but is an imperfect agreement better than impasse and going away with an abject failure?

Right now, in Copenhagen, the leaders are struggling, never mind to sign a deal, merely to get to agreement, any kind of deal that would reduce global warming. So, let's look at where we stand at this hour.

The 11th hour, in fact, of the agreement, and none the wiser, as to what the plan is to save our planet. It has taken two years and now two weeks. The negotiations have, of course, been intense. More than 100 leaders are in the Danish capital. Ironically, at this point, when they should have been dotting Is and crossing Ts, they are salvaging the summit. In the past fortnight we have seen divides of big chasms between rich and poor, and storm of accusations between the U.S. and China. Amid all of that, glimmers of hope, Washington has pledged to launch a program to help developing nations. It is worth $100 billion a year, by 2020, but that is dependent on other commitments from other countries.

China signaled it is considering greater transparency of its own emissions, one of the summits key sticking points. It is a case of too little, too late, so far, not enough. Strong words from the world's biggest polluters. Starting with President Obama, and then the Chinese President Wen Jiabao, they addressed the conference. Both said they could not afford to fail, if they and others did a deal.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The time for talk is over. This is the bottom line. We can embrace this accord, take a substantial step forward, continue to refine it and build upon its foundation. We can do that and everyone who is in this room will be part of an historic endeavor, one that makes life better for our children and our grandchildren, or we can choose delay.

WEN JIABAO, PRESIDENT OF CHINA (through translator): At this very moment billions of people across the world are following what is happening here in Copenhagen closely. The will that we express and the commitments that we make here should help push forward mankind's historical process of combating climate change. Standing at this podium I am deeply aware of the heavy responsibility. China takes climate change very seriously. We have made and will continue to make unremitting effort to tackle this challenge.


QUEST: If you are like me, you may be wondering what on earth they have been doing for the last two weeks and why it is so difficult. So let's turn to Phil Black, who is in Copenhagen.

Phil, you have had a very busy couple of weeks. But I'm going to throw some rapid-fire questions at you, if I may, for some brief answers, just so we can get a feeling for tonight.

Tell me, Phil, is there actually an agreement on the table that they are considering signing?

PHIL BLACK, CNN INT'L. CORRESPONDENT: Richard, there is apparently a draft that has been reworked several times through the course of the day, but at the moment, you called it the 11th hour, I think it is later than that. I think the bell is tolling here in Copenhagen. All the signs are pretty bad. It does not look like this is happening at this stage. We have confirmed that the Russian president has already left town a short time ago. A short time ago there was a bilateral meeting between a bunch of key leaders, President Obama, the United States, the Brazilian, the Chinese, and Indian leaders, as well. We are expecting an announcement here eminently, Richard.

QUEST: What does abject failure look like? And what does something that they can dress up, in some festive fashion, to call a success, look like?

BLACK: Abject failure is a complete collapse in these talks when everyone walks away with absolutely nothing achieved. No documents signed by anybody. And I've go to tell you at the moment, it smells like that.

Something that can be dressed up as success, is perhaps some document that points to certain agreements, a road forward, a roadmap to the next major conference in Mexico, halfway through next year. Something that says we have agreed on a few points, but without the detail, without the specifics that everyone had hoped for form this conference, Richard.

QUEST: People watching tonight, who might feel not unjustly, angry that after all this talking and being told how serious it is, where -would they be right to feel that a plague on all the leaders' house, or does blame lie in certain key areas?

BLACK: Well, there is going to be a lot of blame thrown around in the coming days, of that you can be absolutely sure. The divisions are wide. Just who proved to be thoroughly intractable in the end? I guess this is going to come down to some final analysis, particularly once we get the breakdown of precisely how these final last-minute negotiations have gone today.

But the word from the United States today, the message from President Obama, was very much directed at China. He was very much directing blame in their direction for not being willing to give ground on what the United States has considered some of the key issues in this, Richard.

QUEST: Phil, you have done more broadcasting in two weeks than most of do in one year. And how long is your voice going to last?

BLACK: No much longer tonight. I don't think so, man.

QUEST: All right, Phil Black. Just keep it long enough until the end of this summit tonight. Phil Black, joining us from Copenhagen.

And, Phil, who has been watching these events with such magnificence analysis, will be there right up until -whether his voice lasts or not, he is going to be there right up until the last moment.

If you miss CNN's YouTube debate on the climate change, you can watch it again tomorrow night. It is at 20:00 London, 21:00 Central European Time. It is right here on CNN.

Now, to the markets, open and doing business. We had a very nasty tumble on the back an employment, jobless claims, I should say, in the United States. To the U.S. now, well, look at that. I think we can safely say that sort of some holiday, festive, whatever, nonsense has not arrived. Up just 7 points, 0.07, obviously, because of the way the market is, 10, 315.

And in Europe, the red was across the board after a choppy session. The European Central Bank says the financial crisis has done more damage than expected. It forecast Euro Zone back loses, more than 550 billion. It also warned Greece to get its act together in terms of its deficit and its economy. That is my paraphrasing.

London's FTSE, you can see off half a percent, and the worst losses were in Paris, down three quarters, or just nearly 1 percent.

So, those are the markets. You know where your investments are headed at the moment. Now what is happening in the news world? Max is at the news desk.


QUEST: Two major American carriers are battling to get a greater foothold in Asia's largest airline. So whether it is Delta or American, JAL will make the decision. Next up.


QUEST: Now to the battle for JAL, the Japanese airline. And Delta is reportedly emerging as the chosen partner for JAL. This is according to Japan's "Asahi Shimbun" newspaper. JAL is leaning towards a tie up with Delta and its Sky Team Airline Alliance. Now, if that were to take place it would mean breaking with American Airlines led One World Alliance. It is a fight that comes after the U.S. and Japanese governments have agree a preliminary open skies deal. Both American and Delta have each pledged more than a billion dollars to pump the money into JAL to keep if flying. CNN's Eunice Yoon from Hong Kong.


EUNICE YOON, CNN INT'L. CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Tokyo's Narita Airport, one of the busiest airports in the world. Thousands of passengers fly into there from the U.S. everyday. Many share a common complaint, not enough flights.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd like to see more, more flight options between different major U.S. hubs and Narita Airport. Or maybe even some of the other airports like, Veneta (ph), or Atami (ph), and Osaka.

YOON: There are now heavy restrictions on carriers flying in and out of Japan, limiting routes, landing slots, even fares. But that may soon change. United States and Japan have reached a preliminary open skies agreement. The deal would ease restriction on airlines, allowing for more flights for more carriers, at cheaper fares.

RANJAN DAS, NUMBER ONE TRAVEL: It is a win-win situation for the customers, for the traveling people. And also the airlines, they can choose any routings from now on. And also for the traveling people they have the choice of the price, of the destinations (ph) , also.

YOON: Another boost for travelers, a decision to allow daily flights from the U.S. to Haneda Airport , which is closer to Central Tokyo. The open skies deal also permits U.S. and Japanese airlines to forge closer ties.

JIM ECKES, AIRLINE ANALYST: If you are lined up, or aligned with a Japanese carrier, you can then go from Tokyo to onward, to other locations in Asia, where a U.S. carrier doesn't fly directly to. So that gives you an edge in the market.

YOON: United Airlines is pursuing a joint venture with current partner, All Nippon Airways, Japan's second-largest airline. The real attention, though, is on the heated battle for leader Japan Airlines. American and Delta Airlines are offering big investments to align with the struggling carrier. If JAL chooses Delta, American Airlines and its One World Alliance, will be left stranded without a Japanese partner.

But while open skies may strengthen links over the Pacific, airlines still need to contend with a global downturn, till business travel picks up between the world's two largest economies, carriers will face financial turbulence ahead. Eunice Yoon, CNN, Hong Kong.


QUEST: One other note from the aviation and airline industry. The low-cost airline Ryanair says it scrapped plans to buy 200 Boeing planes. The airline company says it was unable to get concessions from Boeing for the 737s. Ryanair says it has no plans to buy the 200 craft from other manufacturers. Instead it is going to keep hold of the money and return it to shareholders. But there is no word yet on the mechanism it would use to actually do that.

In just a moment the pressure sets up to reign in Wall Street pay. Morgan Stanley chief, John Mack, is the latest chief to turn down this year's bonus.


QUEST: Let's continue our discussion of Ryanair deciding not to buy planes from Boeing; two hundred plans were part -was the deal they were looking to buy. Ryanair's Chief Executive Michael O'Leary on the line now from Dublin.

Michael, was it just a question of the price, or was it just -or was it other conditions that you were unhappy with?

MICHAEL O'LEARY, CEO, RYANAIR: Hello, good evening, Richard. It is an honor and pleasure as usual to talk to yourself. And really, I mean it is remarkable, we had agreed the pricing of the aircraft with Boeing, about two weeks ago, and the delivery positions. And for the last 10 days Boeing has been running around trying to change delivery conditions, which had been agreed not alone for the first 200 hundred aircraft we have taken delivery of, but for the next 112 we take delivery of over the next three years.

QUEST: Right. You got a stunningly good deal, some would say you took them to the cleaners and didn't give them back their clothes when you bought the last couple of hundred planes. So it is not surprising that they didn't want to give you quite the same terms this time around?

O'LEARY: Hey, I think, it is astonishing. I mean, usually buying airplanes, Richard, the most difficult thing to agree is the price. We agreed to price for a $200 aircraft order. You know, during the year when neither Boeing nor Airbus have managed to sell even 100 aircraft.

QUEST: Right.

O'LEARY: I think the problem is Boeing gets some kind of performance anxiety, when you get down to closing the deal they are just not able to close it.

QUEST: What was the price you were going to pay for them?

O'LEARY: Ah, very substantial, I think the value of the deal would have been about $12 billion. It would have multiplied by, I think, by fivefold Boeing's aircraft orders this year. `

QUEST: So are you going -I mean, I have seen you saying you are now looking to return money to shareholders. That tells me clearly that you are not looking to do a deal with Airbus?

O'LEARY: No, I don't think Airbus has ever been on the table. You know, we clearly set out to shareholders, and to Boeing, for the last number of months, and we said it publicly, in the press, if we don't get a deal done with Boeing by the end of this year. We will continue to take the $112 deliveries we have, already in line for the next three years. And after that we will start returning cash to shareholders, because we won't be spending a billion a year on capital expenditure.

QUEST: Final question Michael, you said you are off in a couple of years, when are you actually leaving?

O'LEARY: I think when Ryanair starts to pay these very large dividends, as a 5 percent shareholder, I think I'll be heading for Barbados or some suitable tax haven, Richard, spent my ill-gotten gains, courtesy of Boeing's mismanagement.

QUEST: Make sure you come past London and buy me lunch first. Although I suspect that -

O'LEARY: I don't think I could afford you, Richard.

QUEST: I was about to say, I suppose, I'll still end up paying the bill. Michael, many thanks. Have a lovely weekend and a good festive season.

O'LEARY: Thank you. You, too.

QUEST: Right, Deutsche bank is looking to spread the pain. Talking of bonuses, are Britain's controversial tax on bankers' bonuses. The investment and trading giant told CNN that it is a windfall tax hits the bonus pool and colleagues around the world will share the impact. Last week Britain unveiled the one-off 50 percent super tax, it will be levied on any bonuses over about $40,000. France, of course, is doing similar.

On Wall Street the outrage over bonuses has claimed a fresh victim. The Morgan Stanley chief , John Mack, said he will forego his bonus in 2009. He cites the billions of dollars in taxpayer aid his firm accepted last year. It is the second year in a row he is not accepted any sort of bonus payment. And it will be his last opportunity, he is due to hand over to James Gorman at the end of the year. I suspect his previous compensation means we shouldn't shed to many tears.

Let's talk about bonuses, marketing, and all these matters, Sir Martin Sorrell.

MARTIN SORRELL, CEO, WPP: Good evening, Richard. It is always putting your head in the lion's mouth with you on this program.


QUEST: Good evening, Martin, nice to have you.

SORRELL: Even from Michael, from Dublin, or where he was.

QUEST: He was in Dublin.


QUEST: First of all, how as a marketing man yourself.

SORRELL: So-called.

QUEST: It is pretty breathtaking the way in which the bankers have managed to create such a bad impression of themselves, on bonuses.

SORRELL: Well, every group we need a scapegoat. And the bankers are the scapegoats at the moment. And as we saw with the PBR statement here, in the U.K., the re-budget statement, this is politically popular and acceptable move. If you look at the polls, 75 to 80 percent of the people polled say it is right to do it.

But banker bashing doesn't get us out of the problem, it might divert attention from it, but the real issue is how do we fund these deficits or how do we deal with these deficits? How do we get government spending under control? How do we deal with taxation in a constructive way? Should we tax consumption rather than investment? Those are the real issues. It just diverts us from the fundamentals.

QUEST: What are you seeing in your business? Because we often use advertising or promotion and all the other, and sponsorship, we often use all these industries as barometers.

SORRELL: Yes, we're lagging indicators. And I think we are seeing it get less worse. I mean, November was quite interesting because it was a significant difference in being less worse, or more less worse, if you follow my logic, than before. But we would be minus 8, in terms of top line, like for like sales, by the end of the third quarter. It is continued pretty much of that. But November was a little bit different. And next year we are saying even Stevens. We will be flat, but we should be given the fact that we were down 8 percent this year so far.

QUEST: So things are getting, I'm going to optimistic.

SORRELL: Less worse.

QUEST: Things are getting better.

SORRELL: Yes, I mean, less worse. I think there is a subtle but important difference. You know if you are running for office the moment you see a sequential improvement in this sort of data, you leap onto programs such as this and you say, we are out of the recession. In my view we are not out of the recession until we see like-for-like positive growth. And I think we will see that at WPP in the second quarter of next year when we cycle very easy comparatives we are down 11 percent in the comparative quarter this year.

QUEST: I want to take you into one fascinating area.


QUEST: Tiger Woods? And the way in which he has tied himself to -you know, with his sponsors, many, some of whom have now dropped him. Is there -are you rethinking and telling your staff, to rethink telling your clients what they should do in sponsorship, when the company ties itself to a person?

SORRELL: That has always been the case. I mean, I worked for Martin McCormack, in the late `60s or Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus. There has always been an issue with individuals as to what happens to them. We have seen it with many other characters before, many other personalities.

Probably not on this scale, and what Tiger Woods stood for, obviously, has been undermined by some of the things that have been going on. But clearly, it depends on what the sponsor is looking for. It depends, in the case of many of them, the nature of what they are looking for is very different to what Tiger stands for now.

QUEST: Right. I asked Michael about succession, never get a -

SORRELL: I knew I'm putting my head in the lion's mouth.


SORRELL: I'll carry on as long as they'll have me, Richard.

QUEST: And you'll buy me lunch as well.

SORRELL: As long as you'll have me on your program.

QUEST: And you will buy me lunch, as well.

SORRELL: Of course, I will.

QUEST: Thanks, indeed.

SORRELL: Thank you very much.

QUEST: Have a lovely festive period. Many thanks, Sir Martin Sorrell, joining me.

When we come back. the sale that never was, General Motors runs out of options for Saab. We are going to get the reaction live from the Swedish government tonight. Quest means business, good evening.


QUEST: Good evening, I'm Richard Quest. QUEST MEANS BUSINESS, this is CNN.

The end of the road tonight, for the Swedish carmaker, SAAB, the company's owner, General Motors, has said it is shutting down the 72-year- old brand, after last-ditch attempts to sell it fell through. The Dutch luxury carmaker Spyker, had planned to buy Saab, it couldn't meet the end of December deadline to close the deal. GM now says it is working towards, and I quote, "and orderly wind down of Saab's assets. It stressed it is not a bankruptcy, or forced liquidation. So, therefore Saab is still liable for its debts. Sweden's enterprise minister has called it regrettable.

On the line now from Stockholm, Joran Hagglund, the state secretary of Sweden's ministry of enterprise.

Mr. Hagglund, tonight, this is very grim news.

What happens to Saab and what can you do about it?

JORAN HAGGLUND, SWEDEN ENTERPRISE MINISTRY: Well, first of all, of course, it's very sad news, isn't it?

What really is going to happen, we don't really know yet, because as you mentioned, it would be an orderly wind down, so we will have to sit down with General Motors to see in what way that could be conducted and what kind of opportunities there will be during that wind down.

So we don't really know yet.

QUEST: Is there any chance that the Swedish government would step in, do you think, and either nationalize Saab -- or -- or try and launch its own rescue operation?

HAGGLUND: No. We would certainly not nationalize Saab or become the owner of Saab. Of course, we will continue the discussion to see if there still are any interested bidders that can come in very late. But I think that mainly it's the -- the thing that they're going to do now is to have a discussion with G.M. to see in what way we could make use of the very good parts of Saab, the (INAUDIBLE) for instance, the competence of the personnel.

QUEST: I -- I'm -- I realize that the blame game is futile, to some extent. But just as there was in Germany with Opel, there must be some disquiet amongst the Swedish government about how General Motors has handled this whole Saab escapade.

HAGGLUND: Well, you mentioned Opel and, actually, we had a discussion within the competitive council in the European Union where we agreed, every country, to be very keen on keeping on the state regulations. We mentioned for them that if Opel is going to cut down about 8,000 jobs throughout all of Europe, of course, the 3,500 jobs employment is a very tough damage to the (INAUDIBLE).

So, but we are not completing the stated races (ph) or trying to -- to just (INAUDIBLE) between the public money because that is not the channel for any company to survive in the long-term.

QUEST: The -- the reality tonight -- and I take on board your point. But the reality tonight is that Saab is -- is going to be wound down, it seems. And I suppose, from government's point of view, you have to now really start to think about the retraining, the unemployment and -- and what you can do to help those thousands of people that will lose their jobs.

HAGGLUND: Yes. Actually, we decided to -- today to form a task force together with people from the region of East Sweden. The time has come (INAUDIBLE) the trade unions, the companies, the employment agency and other interested think holders (ph) to see how can we together support both individuals and the region (INAUDIBLE) communities for now to really become a successful part of the development after Saab.

QUEST: Mr. Hagglund, please come back and talk more about this in the future, when more plans are known.

We thank you very much for joining us this evening.

Saab is one of four brands that G.M. is cutting loose under the conditions of its June bankruptcy filing. It's been a struggle. Another deal to sell the Swedish carmaker to Koenigsegg fell through last month. Saab has failed, unfortunately, to turn a profit in the 20 years since G.M. became a stockholder. The company says it lost around $240 million in 2008. But all this, of course, while the company has been reformatting itself and coming up with many models that are extremely popular. Saab employs around 3,500 people at the Swedish plant. Its closure may put thousands more jobs at risk.

You're up to date.

In a moment, we'll be taking you for a spin behind the scenes at the Royal Ballet.

The real life sugar plum fairy -- could there be anything more beautiful for our festive World At Work?


QUEST: OK. It is a week, of course, away from Christmas and our 12 festive days continue on. Time for a festive spin on the World At Work seasons -- series. And I must say, I'm thoroughly enjoying the way we are taking on World At Work and looking at people and our journey through the 12 days of Christmas.

We're now reaching the day number nine, when my true love brought for me nine ladies dancing. Well, now, come on, there has been a recession. Nine is a little extravagant in this day and age. But it didn't matter, because the one we've got to you for the passion of the profession is a prima ballerina.

We got a glimpse of her life on and off stage with the Royal Ballet.



ROBERTA MARQUEZ, PRINCIPAL DANCER, ROYAL BALLET: I had a teacher back in Brazil, where I am from. She believed that I was good and I had the physique for ballet.


I've been doing it for 25 years. Let me hear because (INAUDIBLE).

Unfortunately, in Brazil, I wasn't able to do that. We don't have any real performers and you get so frustrated because of that.


I train everyday, four or five hours a day. And it's quite difficult. But I mean it's -- I love to do it. I just -- I'm very hard with myself. I -- I want to be perfect in every single step that I do.


I think the trick is, as an artist, to -- to be able to tell the (INAUDIBLE) "The Nutcracker" is what I'm doing the next. So I have to be just a fairy.

QUEST: So, in many ways, the trick of being a good fairy is believing...

MARQUEZ: What are you doing?

Believing that you are a fairy, that you are a princess, that you are Juliet, that you are whatever you're doing, you just have to believe it.


The shoes -- the shape of the shoes here is quite hard. You see, it's not soft.

QUEST: Right.

MARQUEZ: So that is keeping me balanced.

QUEST: Those shoes don't -- those shoes don't last very long, do they?

MARQUEZ: No. They -- for me, they last one day, one performance.

QUEST: Have you ever thought about how many shoes you have been through?



QUEST: What happens inside to Roberta when the music starts playing?

MARQUEZ: My heart beats fast and (INAUDIBLE) and everything. And just it's -- I don't know, it's a pleasure to be on the stage and to be able to do what you love. We work really hard, so we -- if we don't have a passion, I don't think it's (INAUDIBLE) should do ballet without a passion.



QUEST: When it comes to ladies dancing, it doesn't get more festive than the Royal Ballet's "Nutcracker" at Christmas. And when it comes to sugar plum fairies, there are none sweeter than Roberta and her world at work.

Nine ladies dancing -- I think of our series so far, that has to be one of my favorites, that wonderful music and that wonderful dancing and the passion that Roberta Marquez brought to our -- to our festive treat.

Our Facebook page is at questmeansbusiness. Questmeansbusiness is where you search. And you can have an idea and start to join in our debate about what we might be doing -- because we've now got to do 10 lords a leaping, 11 pipers piping and 12 drummers drumming. And then we're just about finished by the middle of next week.

QUEST MEANS BUSINESS is -- oh, he's gone. Back again -- putting where you can join us.

Now, as to the weather forecast, let's move on to that. Snow -- more snow for Europe.

Guillermo is at the CNN World Weather Center to bring us up to date with some serious stuff.


I think that we're going to get another round of snow showers in Britain this weekend. It's going to be quick, though. We're talking about like four centimeters or so. So it's this new system that is going to be coming down and bringing the conditions for more snow.

France is going to get more and everybody else is, as well.

So look at the forecast the next 48 hours. You see this -- look at the southeast, especially -- boom, there you go. You're going to get the snow there in addition to what you already have. And France is going to get more because France got more than you guys.

And needless to say, we have the cold snap that continues. Look at Paris, look at where the temperature should be and we're seeing only minus four is the high for Saturday. It's going to be seven.

What about Vienna?

I picked a couple of cities because there are so many. Minus three on Monday. The temperature should be four degrees. So we're talking about seven degrees away from the average.

Now, in the east, at the same time, we get more snow, these back to back lows that are dumping more snow in the Carpathian Mountains here, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, in Belgrade. And we're talking about even more than we see on the west -- up to half a meter or more.

Italy is seeing a lot of snow. Look at the overall here picture of what's going on, because we still have that area of cold air affecting these sections. And temps now are stretching a little bit into the west as well, the negative figures.

I mean it's going to be bad. And the delays continue at airports, because not only we're dealing with the snow there, but also the windy conditions that complicate operations at airports.

Berlin is going to get a lot of snow.

Before I toss back to Richard, I want to show Miami -- two or three seconds, Mark (ph). Let's show what's going on. The floods affect the northern parts of the city.

You know what?

This low is the same low that actually is moving to the north. It's bringing a lot of snow. And if you are coming to Washington, D.C., the snow (ph) starts tonight. We may see so much in these areas, we may see so much snow into the Northeast, it's because the low is pumping a lot of humidity into an area that is already very cold. So we're getting the snow. We're getting the winds.

I mean, Richard, it's good that we are off on the weekend. We're going to hear awful stories about the delays at airports in the States -- back to you.

QUEST: Guillermo, many thanks for that.

And that is QUEST MEANS BUSINESS for this Friday.

We wish good luck to Simmons (ph), our producer, who leaves us tonight for other climes.

I'm Richard Quest in London.

Whatever you're up to in the hours ahead, I do hope it's profitable.