Return to Transcripts main page


German Chancellor Agrees to Firewall; Regional Elections in Germany Weakened Merkel's Position Domestically; Spain Under Stress; Markets Fall in Spain, Rise Elsewhere in Europe; Return of Risk; US Markets Rise; US Fed Chief Says Economy Growth "Modest"; EasyJet Revises Loss Forecast; Iberia Express Launches; Qantas, China Eastern Team Up; Budget Airlines Trying Low-Cost Long-Haul Model; US Dollar Continues to Slide; Future Cities: Berlin Wall Part of City's Cultural Future

Aired March 26, 2012 - 14:00:00   ET


RICHARD QUEST, HOST: The clarion call: build up the firewall, and Germany drops its resistance.

The other call: tell us your password to Facebook or you won't get the job. Tonight I ask you, what would you tell the company?

And flying on a budget. Low-cost airlines are battling for our business. The start of a new week. I'm Richard Quest and, of course, I mean business.

Good evening. She can stand the heat no longer. Chancellor Angela Merkel has given into pressure and agreed to help build Europe's firewall higher than ever before. It happens as Spain struggles to keep a lid on its own debt crisis.

And now, Germany's wunder chancellor finally admits the two bailout funds must be combined to stop things escalating further.


QUEST: If you join me at the super screen, you'll see how the flames are licking around the crisis that simply won't go way. And I don't mean it's warm after winter.

The new permanent ESM, European Stability Mechanism, comes into force in July. Now, the total for the ESM is some 500 billion euros. It's a permanent fund, and it's designed to put -- prevent contagion and fire.

However, many say it's not high enough and more money needs to be put in there. Chancellor Merkel accepts that, now, and she has said that the EU could temporarily use the bailout money from the existing EFSF, the money left over. That would create a firewall of some 740 billion euros.

The firewall, some would say, would now be big enough. Others believe it still wouldn't be enough. Some say a trillion euros is needed to build a true, effective firewall if you're going to douse those flames.

It's a serious political gamble for Chancellor Merkel to agree to add the extra money. Her colleagues in Brussels want something very different from her domestic political rivals, who threaten this sort of war. Fred Pleitgen is our Senior Correspondent, who is in Berlin.


FRED PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is quite a big step for Germany. As you know, the Germans have always been very much opposed to increasing the size of the permanent European Stability Mechanism, the bailout fund, essentially, for eurozone countries that get into trouble.

Now, what the Germans are suggesting is to keep the actual fund as it is, but to also keep the temporary fund that's already in place for a little bit longer, have the two run parallel, in order to increase the firepower of both of them.

Now, what we're talking about is a firewall in the magnitude of about 700 billion, possibly all the way to almost a trillion euros in size. And the way Angela Merkel wants to do that she explained a a press conference earlier today.

ANGELA MERKEL, CHANCELLOR OF GERMANY (through translator): We can imagine that these 200 billion euros could run parallel to the 500 billion euros of the ESM until they have been paid back by the countries. That will take several years, and then the ESM will stand alone with the 500 billion.

PLEITGEN: Now, Germany's seeming softening of its stance is, of course, good news not just to faltering eurozone economies, but also to other countries.

As you know, Germany has been under a lot of pressure from the United States, also from countries in Asia to soften its position and to create a firewall that many believe will actually do the trick. Because there are a lot of experts who believe that the firewall of $500 billion for the ESM was simply not big enough to protect a lot of those eurozone economies.

This also comes as Angela Merkel received a mixed bag of political as well as economic news here in Germany. On the one hand, business confidence has risen for the fifth month in a row. This according to the Ifo business confidence index. It's a sign, people believe, that Germany is in a very stable position and could see some economic growth in 2012.

On the other hand, there were regional elections here in Germany that actually weakened Angela Merkel's position on a federal level. Her own party fared quite well, however, her coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats, did very, very poorly, are out of that state parliament.

And also, if elections were held here in Germany, federal elections, tomorrow or next weekend, they would probably also be out of the German federal parliament, as well. That's something that could hurt Angela Merkel's leadership role here in Germany, which of course would also have an effect on her ability to maneuver and be strong in Europe.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.


QUEST: Spain is one of the countries that may need to rely on this very firewall. The situation's precarious, now, for the government of Prime Minister Rajoy, that even electoral victories look sometimes more like defeat as the flames start to lick closer.

Let's just hope the fire doesn't get to close to the library, because in Andalucia, there has been an election, and Rajoy's Popular Party did win, but it failed to get a majority, and the Socialists are expected to form a coalition.

The reason it's significant is Andalucia is Spain's most popular region, and it's seen as a key test of Rajoy's austerity policies. Those austerity policies will be to the forefront on Friday with the budget.

You'll be remembering, of course, Rajoy said he wasn't going to be able to cut the deficit to 5.3 percent, and there was an argument over with the European Commission, and the Commission basically said, you will cut the deficit target to where you agreed to cut it, 5.3 percent is what they're aiming for, which will be blistering in terms of the austerity that will be inflicted on the Spanish people.

Not surprising, with all this happening, Spain, the IBEX was the market that fell, which of course is all the more remarkable when the other markets rise quite sharply. The Spanish banks were hard hit. Spanish bond yields fell today, as well, still more than 5 percent on the ten-year bond.

You're getting an idea that the crisis that we had thought, perhaps, had abated may be starting to simmer up again. So, the stock market has raised its own questions on how to manage money during times like this.

One chief investment officer, one top European bank, says it's time to put risk back on the table, or at least time to move away from the safety and security of the bonds that we all bought during the crisis.

Didier Duret is the chief investment officer at ABN AMRO. This current financial crisis and the way it has shifted, we needed to understand how the rules have changed.


DIDIER DURET, CHIEF INVESTMENT OFFICER, ABN AMRO: They key change is that the people are simply recognizing that the bonds yields are not enough for long-term annuities.

And that's probably the thing that will create a big change over this year, meaning that people are probably overweight in terms of bonds and are underweight in terms of equities, and most of the private clients have not followed the asset allocation that were recommended by the big banks. So, there is a huge hoarding of cash from the private investor perspective.

QUEST: Which is either in bonds or in cash itself. But the events that we've seen in the last few days, even today, with the ESM, the EFSF, Merkel, Spain, is this the right time to be putting risk on equities?

DURET: I think so because the -- we are seeing big firewalls to be built, we are seeing that since December, but do you know what we are seeing from the side -- from the Germans this morning is simply extended the height of the firewall, and the strength of the firewall.

QUEST: But it's still risky. Spain's bonds are still high.


QUEST: So there is still questions and worries.

DURET: But you know, the Spanish bonds were 6 percent the 25th of November. Now two years, and the two-year bonds for Spanish are a little bit above 2 percent, so that's much less risky than it was.

QUEST: So, asset allocation, out of bonds and over to equities, is that what you're suggesting?

DURET: That's one of the moves. And this move can be done gradually, because people come from a perspective where they are strongly underweight in bonds for some of them, so they have to go into a specific sector and in particular to have already exposure into the cyclical with a good balance also into the defense sector.

QUEST: And ultimately, do you believe -- in fact, I know you believe, because you told me you believed -- that another bull market is about to begin?

DURET: I think there are many comparisons between 2012 and 1982.


DURET: Really. It could --

QUEST: 82?

DURET: 82, yes.

QUEST: I don't remember it.

DURET: Yes, 82 we were quite young at the time, but the thing is, we have major political change that had happened. The rule of the game of the central bankers was totally rewritten. We can find many comparisons on that, and also the industrial sector was the real sector that has suffered a lot of pain. Now, we are seeing that with the financial sector.

So, there are really big changes, but what is important is that the central bankers represent a kind of a coalition of the will.

QUEST: So, call it by me. Risk back on the table.

DURET: Certainly, risk back on the table, but with a lot -- with a close eye on diversification just to make sure that you don't go too crazy with the crowded trade, one of the crowded trade that we see is government bonds, but also the investment grade bonds have been rolling for already some years. So, it's a bit of an exhausted trade. You need to find something different.


QUEST: The asset allocation. The markets open doing business at the moment.


QUEST: Have a look at this. It is the Dow Jones, which is currently up nearly 1 percent. A gain of more than 100 points, 120-odd points at 13,210. All the major markets are up very strongly.

If you want to know the reason why, look no further than the chairman of the Fed. He has cast doubt in recent improvements in the labor market, but Ben Bernanke told an organization that recent falls in the jobless rate are out of sync with the rest of the economy. On overall growth, he said, was not fast enough to sustain the trend.

So, the modest growth that he talks of has led to a US jobless rate falling from 9 percent to 8.3 percent, and those comments have raised investors' hopes -- the old hopes that long-term interest rates would remain slow for a long period of time.

The chairman said, over time the Fed's current loose policy would help reduce unemployment. The Fed speaks, the market rises.

When we come back in a moment, they're popping up everywhere. Qantas, China Eastern, Iberia, they've all announced new budget airlines, and we'll look into the budget business model after the break. QUEST MEANS BUSINESS.



QUEST: So, when we fly, more and more of us are flying and trading down. Low-cost carriers are the way to go. Often, they are the only way to get from A to B.

Just this weekend, for example, I was in Tallinn in Estonia and took EasyJet, no doubt helping, of course, the numbers that they reported today, now saying that they expect a lower half-year loss. They say that's down by 47 or so to $50 million.

The reason? Actually, fascinating -- lower mind winter, lower costs for deicing, and fewer disruptions to the network. So, EasyJet -- don't forget, they usually make a loss in the first half, make a thumping great big amount of money in the second half during the summer season. So, that's EasyJet.

But staying with new carriers and new entrants, Iberia has just launched the Iberia Express, Iberia and BA part of the IAG Group. Iberia Express will begin flying within Spain this month, in fact, this week. It will have ultimately 17 national destinations and European destinations and is going to move to a fleet of about 14 aircraft. It's a wholly-owned subsidiary of Iberia.

Continuing this, Jetstar, which is the subsidiary of Qantas, is teaming up with China Eastern for another bit of Jetstar. Jetstar already has a variety of affiliates and subsidiaries, and now this one, Jetstar Hong Kong, Thailand, and the like, Indonesia.

This one could be the biggie. Jetstar Hong Kong, which will give it a real toehold into China. Three Airbus 320s going up to 18 in short order.

So, what we are now seeing is really quite clear. We are seeing these low-cost carriers moving into bigger businesses, and we are seeing established airlines trying to make a go, like Jetstar, now Iberia, of an airline within an airline. In other words, the low-cost subsidiary.


QUEST (voice-over): Southwest Airlines is credited as being the first true low-cost carrier. Fifteen years later, no-frills flights caught on in Europe, and they were outperforming the traditional carriers. Fifteen more years, things have moved east, and an avalanche of competitors have followed.

Now to the fray, Scoot, Singapore Airlines' offshoot, with its eye firmly fixed on longer routes, long-haul low-cost.

CAMPBELL WILSON, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, SCOOT: Clearly, there's a growing market here. The international air travel is growing about 6.3 percent per annum. The no-frills market is growing much faster.

In eight years in Singapore, it's gone from nothing to about 25 percent of Chinese through port. And so, there's a market that wants to travel no-frills and wants to travel farther afield.

QUEST (on camera): The low-cost long-haul model, the cynics say it can't work, and where it has been tried, it has failed.

WILSON: It's one thing to say that businesses didn't work. It's another thing to say that the model doesn't work, and I think some of the examples you highlighted were businesses that had fundamental flaws rather than the model itself being flawed.

QUEST (voice-over): When the first plane takes off, Scoot will be going head-to-head with AirAsia and its long-haul arm, AirAsia X, run by Azran Osman-Rani.

AZRAN OSMAN-RANI, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, AIRASIA X: This is where it all happens. This is our flight operations center. It's a very high turnaround environment, as you can see. Very busy, but that's one of the key things that makes the model work successfully.

QUEST: AirAsia is the market leader. Even so, it's not been able to make a sustainable success of true long-haul, low-cost flights over eight hours, pulling out of London and Paris this month.

OSMAN-RANI: What we've seen over the last -- the second half of 2011 was that the number of Europeans in our passengers were steadily declining, as a reflection of the economic situation. It's about being smart about which markets best have the supply and demand dynamics.

QUEST (on camera): Can the model work? Low-cost, long-haul?

OSMAN-RANI: Yes, but in a situation where there's enough demand.

QUEST (voice-over): AirAsia's chief exec recognizes that aviation may not yet be ready for long-haul, low-cost flights of more than 10 hours.

QUEST (on camera): Can low-cost, long-haul work? Does the model work?

TONY FERNANDES, GROUP CHIEF EXECUTIVE, AIRASIA: Up to eight hours, we're making very good money, from four to eight hours. So, what I've called medium-haul. To 12 hours? Not with any present aircraft.

QUEST: Fuel prices are the current 30, 29, 30 percent more than last year. They're hitting everybody hard, and must be hitting you just as hard.

FERNANDES: We're kind of battle-hardened, and we've been ready for this. And we are in a nice part of the world in Asia, where there's still quite a lot of growth. So, look, it's going to affect us, as everyone, but we still think we can continue to grow.

QUEST: That sweet part of the world is really your biggest secret weapon, now, isn't it?

FERNANDES: Without a doubt. You can deal with high costs if you have revenue and if you have demand. Obviously, just in southeast Asia, we have 600 million people. If you start adding China and India, we've got another couple of billion.

So, keep our costs down, keep our business simple. We still have an ability to make good margins and good profits even as oil trends up towards $150.


QUEST: Tony Fernandes, there, on the AirAsia story, one that, of course, now doing battle with Jetstar and announcing its new carrier.

In just a moment, shining a light on Berlin's dark, divided past. We'll look at why the German capital is making sure the Berlin Wall is never forgotten.

On Monday, the foreign exchanges where the US dollar continues to slide. It was those comments from Ben Bernanke. Further easing of monetary policy will be needed to cut US unemployment.

The euro trades close to its highest level against the dollar in more than three weeks.


QUEST: Berlin is one of Europe's biggest construction sites and has been for some years. Each year, the German government spends nearly three quarters of a billion dollars on cultural projects within the capital.

The wall that divided the city from 1961 to 89, that wall is a chilling reminder of what happened in the past, and now city planners are making sure it remains. It's an important part of the city's cultural future.


QUEST (voice-over): Roland was a border guard. For four years, he patrolled the Berlin Wall. He had a license to kill his fellow East German citizens if they tried to escape. Roland is part of Berlin's past.

Lara is four. She's only ever known freedom and democracy. She is part of Berlin's future.

As the pair stroll hand-in-hand along one of the last remaining stretches of the wall, memories are handed down. This is a city that may have moved on and has certainly not forgotten. This memorial, the old Stasi Prison is one of many here that remind people why things had to change.

HUBERTUS KNABE, BERLIN-HOHENSCHONHAUSEN MEMORIAL: At first, you have to know where you come from to realize your future. And secondly, Germany experienced two dictatorships. Therefore, we have a lot of experiences how it worked.

We would like to inform especially the young generation that these mistakes aren't made again. It's very important not to forget what was before to realize how important democracy is because human beings want freedom.

QUEST: Today, the need to remember still echos around Berlin. Alexandra Hilderbrandt runs the Checkpoint Charlie Museum named after the famous crossing point on the Berlin Wall.

ALEXANDRA HILDERBRANDT, CHECKPOINT CHARLIE MUSEUM: We try to tell the people, careful. This can happen again. Also, of course, commemoration for the victims of the German division is also very, very important.

QUEST: In 1989, this is what Berlin looked like. This is Berlin today. And here is what's in the pipeline for tomorrow. Even in the 3D blueprints for the future, the wall weighs heavily.

REGULA LUESCHER, SENATE DEPARTMENT FOR URBAN DEVELOPMENT: It's a part of the German and the Berlin history, and we want that you can see where the wall was.

QUEST: Regula Luescher is an architect. The fate of this city is partly up to her.

QUEST (on camera): Would you agree that the wall still dominates much of the city in the way it reacts and it thinks and it behaves?

LUESCHER: Yes, sure. Because you still have two parts of the city. You still can recognize that there was an Eastern part and a Western part. It goes step-by-step together.

QUEST: When it came time to merge these two cities, what was the thinking? What did you have to do to make two into one?

LUESCHER: You had to rethink what was the history of the -- of this city. We looked into old plans. We want that it's growing together. And we want that we have a city which is absolutely mixed in functions. We want that the people are living in the center of the city, but we also want big cultural institutions. We want, of course, that we also have offices. So, we're trying to get still a very mixed-use city in the central Berlin.

QUEST (voice-over): There's no denying that post-war Berlin was grim. Hundreds of air raids left the city with a massive rebuilding task, but rebuilding it is. Today, around 50 large-scale construction projects worth more than 4 billion euros are underway.

QUEST (on camera): Each year, the German federal government spends 1.6 billion euros on culture, and 35 percent of it is spent right here in Berlin on projects like museum island.

QUEST (voice-over): This grand museum makeover, due for completion in 2015, symbolizes the challenge of merging two halves of the city.

CHRISTINA HAAK, NATIONAL MUSEUMS, BERLIN: After the second world war, our collections were split into East and West, and it took quite a lot of time to bring them together again to make them unique and to give them back their identity.

You don't know where you stand in the present or where you will go to the future if you don't know your past, so for us, it's also quite important to bring young people to the museum.

QUEST: Berlin's dark past is etched into its consciousness, but this was not and is not a city to stay on its knees. The people here take great pride in creating a thriving, handsome, and fun Future City.


QUEST: Next month, in the month of April, our Future City we will be in Vancouver on the west coast of Canada.

When we come back after the break, look, a story that might be more in tune with those Communist and Nazi times, of spies and knowing what you've been up to, where you were and what you think, only this time, it could be employers demanding your Facebook access. QUEST MEANS BUSINESS.


RICHARD QUEST, HOST, QUEST MEANS BUSINESS: Hello, I'm Richard Quest. More QUEST MEANS BUSINESS in just a moment. This is CNN, and on this network, it is the news which will always come first.

NATO's International Security Assistance Force has three of its members were killed today in Afghanistan. Two British members were shot at the main gate of the reconstruction team's headquarters in Helmand Province. About an hour ago, we received word another service member was killed in eastern Afghanistan by a man alleged to have been an Afghan policeman.

The brother of this gunman, Mohamed Merah, has been charged in connection with deadly shooting attacks in and around Toulouse in France last week. Abdul Qata (ph), Merah's (ph) lawyer, says our client feels like he's become a scapegoat. He's been charged with complicity in seven murders and two attempted murders.

A Syrian opposition group says security forces have killed at least 35 people today. More than half of them died in Homs. A video posted online appears to show the latest shelling, but we cannot confirm the authenticity of the pictures.

The U.S. Supreme Court justices have begun hearing arguments today on President Obama's health care reform law. Twenty-six states are challenging the mandate that most Americans must buy health insurance. The justices will decide whether that is considered to be a tax. The decision is not expected for several months.

The former IMF head, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, is being questioned by French police over his role in a suspected prostitution ring. Authorities in Lille are investigating claims that the city's luxury Carlton Hotel was used as a base for a vice network. Strauss-Kahn has not been arrested nor charged.

BMW, the car company, is recalling almost 11/2 million cars worldwide due to a battery problem. The company says the glitch could lead to trouble starting the car and in some exceptional cases, fire. The problem affects some 5 and 6 Series models. BMW says there have been no accidents nor injuries as a result.


QUEST: So you want a job, and when you go for the interview, the employer or prospective employer says, hand over your Facebook login, your password, maybe your Gmail details. Extraordinary perhaps, but now two U.S. senators are asking why some employers think they have a right to have that information on social network.

A growing number of firms are asking staff to hand over very personal details, like passwords to Facebook, when they apply for jobs.

Now the senators involved, New York's Charles Schumer and Connecticut's Richard Blumenthal, have asked the Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, they want an investigation. We'll be hearing from Senator Blumenthal in just a moment. First, CNN's Mary Snow looks at what even Facebook is calling an alarming trend.


MARY SNOW, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): Imagine being on a job interview and an employer asking you for your Facebook login and password. That's what Robert Collins says happened to him at the Maryland Department of Corrections.

After taking a leave of absence, he says he had to go through another vetting process in 2010, and was stunned when his employer asked for his Facebook password. Collins says he complied because he feared for his job.

ROBERT COLLINS, JOB APPLICANT: I'm like, so what exactly are you doing? What are you looking for?

"Well, I'm looking through your messages and through your Wall and through your pictures and through your posts to make sure that, you know, you're not flashing gang signs or are involved in any illegal activity."

I was just mortified. I mean, I just thought that that just crossed the line.

SNOW (voice-over): Collins has since left that job, but his complaint to the ACLU prompted change. Maryland's Department of Corrections' new policy states candidates will not be asked to share their log-in and/or password information. But job applicants to Maryland's Corrections Department are asked to log in to Facebook voluntarily as an interviewer looks over their shoulder.

The department argues that kind of screening is useful for public safety and law enforcement jobs. CNN legal contributor Paul Callan --

SNOW: Is this legal?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: As shocking as it is that employers would ask you for this very, very personal thing, a Facebook password, in most states it's absolutely legal.

SNOW: It's unclear just how many employers are asking job applicants for passwords. It's Facebook's policy to prohibit anyone from soliciting the log-in information or accessing an account belonging to someone else. But lawmakers in Maryland are considering a bill to make it illegal for an employer to ask for passwords.

And a Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act is on the table in Illinois after a state lawmaker received complaints from constituents.

LASHAWN FORD, ILLINOIS STATE LAWMAKER: You have individuals that are afraid to speak and say that employers are asking for their password and their user name for fear of losing their job or for fear of not being hired.


QUEST: Now the Facebook furor isn't limited to the United States. There are reports of incidents in the United Kingdom. Facebook's chief privacy officer says you should never have to show your passwords or let anyone access your account.

Erin Egan says companies which ask could be exposing them to unanticipated legal issues liability. For example, a prospective employer who finds out your date of birth may be claims of discrimination if they don't hire you.

They find out that I really was 50 years old, for instance. Employers would also be breaking Facebook's own policies, reminding that users it's a violation of rights and responsibilities to share or solicit passwords. So much for the law.

Richard Blumenthal is one of the senators calling for an inquiry into employers' Facebook password demands. He told me what he thought when he first heard of this practice.


SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D) CONN.: I heard from constituents about this allegation. I was astonished and appalled that these practices, which are a blatant (inaudible) --

I heard from constituents about this allegation. I was astonished and appalled that these practices, which are a blatant invasion of privacy would be tolerated by employers and would be used as widely as they seem to be now.

They are spreading across this country, and I think set a very dangerous precedent, much like asking for the keys to somebody's home and then rummaging through files, photos, diaries. They are an unnecessary and unreasonable invasion of privacy.

QUEST: OK, Senator, so the employer says, fair enough. If you don't want the job, don't hand over your personal details. Simple.

BLUMENTHAL: It is clearly coercive. In an economy like the one we have now, where people are struggling to find jobs, there's nothing voluntary about this invasion of privacy. And the test and the question is, will we tolerate this kind of practice? I say no, we ought to ban it. And right now, I've called not only for an investigation but for additional laws that will protect privacy.

Remember, the employers are asking for passwords, login credentials, usernames, the keys to someone's private home online.

QUEST: Well, we don't know much about the employers' reasons involved, or perhaps you know much more, because you've got more information. But have you heard any justifications, any reasons that the employers have given, that has given you pause for thought and actually that they might have some form of, say, valid point?

BLUMENTHAL: I've heard the justification that employers want to check backgrounds, want to know the bona fides and character of people. There are other ways to check what people have done through interviews and documents and so forth that are part of the public record.

And I've also heard -- and I agree with this argument -- that there are exceptional forms of employment, such as dealing with children, correctional guards, police officers, law enforcement generally, and also, of course, national security, fiber-related work, but those are a narrow category of jobs, and they should be excepted from a ban on this coercive and invasive, unreasonable invasion of privacy. It really is something that a free society should not permit.

QUEST: So, Senator, this obviously looks like something that both you in the U.S. and in the U.K. parliamentarians will get their teeth into, and we'll have to legislate or be prepared to.

BLUMENTHAL: It is an international problem, not just a national problem, and it should be dealt with at least on a national basis, on a bipartisan basis, without regard to party or ideological divide. There's nothing partisan about privacy, nor should there be.

And I think there will be an effort to reach consensus across the Atlantic, certainly this practice involves companies that have international, multinational dealings. And so their employment practices should be subject to the same scrutiny and standards, high standards, in free societies like Britain and the United States.

QUEST: Finally, Senator, is it worth mentioning, isn't it, we are not talking here about companies demanding that you befriend them so they can see what you're saying or give you access to their public pages. We are talking about something more insidious, they're demanding passwords, usernames, the things that go behind what most ordinary people would see on your pages.

BLUMENTHAL: We're not talking here about the public files or the public persona, what's available in the public realm. It is the private, online world and possessions of people that are accessible only through passwords, login credentials, other keys, in a sense, that employers are demanding from job applicants.


QUEST: Senator Blumenthal, whose first answer was good. You heard it twice.

Look, I ask you @RichardQuest, I asked you what would you tell an employer who asked this question, who -- what would -- what would your answer be? Here's what some of you have said.

Gatu Najura (ph) says, "I would tell the employer to give me access to all company email since we are sharing everything, right?"

"I'd say I don't bother with Facebook," says Weed Hawks (ph).

"I'd say," Isaiah N says, "I'd say to my employer, mind your own business. And (inaudible) what else will happen next."

And Laura Messenger (ph) says, "I'd tell them they could have my password if I could have the password to their payroll system."

Needless to say, the majority -- oh, and Clark Robert (ph) -- love this one -- "I will say I will show you mine if you show me yours."

Needless to say, most of the responses that you gave me -- let's just say a little fruity for this time of evening, even on QUEST MEANS BUSINESS, where we have to be a little bit careful.

@RichardQuest is where the question is very simple, what would you tell an employer who demanded your password to any of these things? Back after the break.


QUEST: Ah, delightful, look, I'm entirely and on Sunday the weather was quite appalling. It was rain, storms, gales -- I thought I was back in the midsteps of winter.

Thankfully, here in Britain today, record warmth, the forecast. Our meteorologist Jennifer Delgado is with us.

All we care about to know, Jennifer, only a very simple question, is it -- no, seriously --


QUEST: -- is it -- is it going to last?

DELGADO: Yes, it is. Absolutely. Now back to you. It's all over. You'll see the 20s over the next couple days.

Yes, you're going to get spoiled by this. And, oh, we're talking this big ridge of high pressure in place right on top of western Europe. And you can see for yourself, not seeing any rain out there, look at the U.K., look at Ireland, down toward southern parts of Europe, nice; up toward Scandinavia. And you can see moving into areas, including Latvia as well as Lithuania, we do have an area of low pressure.

But the good weather is going to stay here, temperatures running above average in some locations. We're talking 10 degrees above average, dare I say even 13 in some locations. This ridge is going to stick around. We're going to keep you dry, especially through parts of the U.K., Spain as well as into France, as we go through Thursday. And then we'll start to see a few more clouds working in.

But there is a problem here with the nice weather around. And the latter rainfall since the beginning of the year, this is having a bad effect on the winter wheat. We've been talking about this.

We have the cold weather, and this is going to potentially have a devastating effect because really not any significant rainfall is in the forecast, for especially for western Europe, and this is going to put a hamper (sic) on the European Union's -- to say this soft wheat production, which accounts for about 20 percent of the world's wheat production.

So that is the one bad thing out of this spectacular forecast. So, Richard, you have to take the good with the bad. But the high temperatures are going to be climbing once again into the 20s. Look at this, 20 degrees for London, 18 in Glasgow. For areas, including Scotland, you reached record highs yesterday, climbing into 21, 22 for London.

People have been out in the water, enjoying the sunshine. Parks are filled, Paris 20 for you; for Vienna, over towards the east, a little bit cooler there. We're talking only a high today of 5 degrees in Kiev. But for Paris, here's your sunshine now. But typically you should see high right around 12 degrees. Look at the numbers up there. It gets better for London.

Richard, you're going to faint. I don't know what's going to happen next. For Tuesday, 22 degrees; Wednesday, I should say, 22 degrees. On Thursday, that's when you start to see a few more clouds around.

By Friday, you'll drop down to the mid-teens, but it's only going to be a brief cooldown, and then as we head into the weekend what looks like signs are showing a brief warm-up once again. Weather is spectacular over there, but the other problem is, Richard, pollen.

This is going to be bad for those allergy sufferers. We know it over here in the southern part of the U.S. It's just everywhere. But, gosh, you are just enjoying this.

QUEST: As I'm getting older, I'm finding I'm being hit -- hey, hey, hey, enough of the (inaudible) don't need to rub salt. But I do find that the pollen and the allergies and the sniffles and the head cold -- I feel - - I suffer. I never used to suffer like (inaudible).

DELGADO: Well, it all -- it doesn't matter. It can happen any time, in the 20s, they say, for women. So I've been a long-time sufferer. I understand. But you look good.

QUEST: Well, we'll leave it at that.

Thank you.


It's wonderful -- it's wonderful what makeup will do.

When we come back in a moment --

DELGADO: I know.

QUEST: -- thanks, Jennifer.

DELGADO: Take care.

QUEST: It's a hooligans' game. It's played by gentlemen and run by an extremely successful woman. Sophie Goldschmidt, commercial director of England's Rugby Football Union explains why she's feeling bullish in a moment.


QUEST: It may not have been a glorious year on the pitch for English rugby. Off the pitch, though, the Rugby Football Union has had its most successful year. Revenues in 2011 were up more than 20 percent. And so far, this year, the RFU's already signed fresh fields with companies like Marriott and GlaxoSmithKline, which will build in -- which will bring in the bucks.

The commercial director says it wants fewer partners rather than more. Alex Thomas asked Goldie (ph) Schmidt, indeed, if you want fewer rather than more, what on Earth is the RFU looking for?


SOPHIE GOLDSCHMIDT, DIRECTOR, RFU: I think for us it's about making sure that our partnerships are as integrated as possible, not just focused on the England team or the grassroots area of the game or some of our other assets, but really integrated across all the different platforms. And moving forward, that's been a big priority for us.

We're actually looking to, if anything, reduce the numbers of partners that we have overall. But the ones that we have, make them more meaningful and broader in all ways.

ALEX THOMAS, CNN SPORT REPORTER: That's interesting. Why is that?

GOLDSCHMIDT: We feel that by taking that approach we'll become even more of a priority for those partners. The fact that they'll be able to leverage us across numerous different aspects of the RFU, I think, is very, very important.

And I think by reducing the number of partners we can offer more value and more differentiated offering and more exclusivity, which we feel is the way that we should be heading.

THOMAS: The RFU had total revenues in 2010-11 of 136.3 million, around $213 million for our international viewers, and a net operating profit of 40.6 million., $63.5 million. How confident are you that the RFU can improve on those figures in the years to come?

GOLDSCHMIDT: Yes, I think we're very confident. I think we have the 2015 World Cup here in England, which is a unique opportunity for the whole sport, and I think we're really hoping that we can take things to the next level, both commercially but also from an overall game perspective, from participation levels, the activity that's happening at our clubs as well.

So we're very bullish about what we can achieve in the future. And I think it's about balancing the different priorities out.

Yes, you know, being commercially in charge of our revenue at the RFU. We are trying to drive as much revenue as possible, which ultimately goes back into the game. But it's very important that those objectives are balanced out with the tradition and some of the other important priorities that we have for the Union.

THOMAS: Because it's astonishing how a number of sports seem to have bucked the global economic recession, to some degree, I mean, football especially. Do you think rugby's in a position to do so as well? Certainly there are indications from the World Cup -- and you see them last year, that it was able to do that.

GOLDSCHMIDT: I think rugby as a sport is an incredibly strong proposition. I think it has a very unique demographic and following. I think the traditions and certain attributes that are associated with rugby are very unique and people want to be associated with the sport.

Like you said, we announced our highest-ever profit last year, and that was in pretty tough economic times. And so there are kneels (ph) we've done recently of the biggest partnerships that we've ever entered into. So I think we are bucking the trend, but having said that, we can't be complacent --


THOMAS: (Inaudible) hard going?

GOLDSCHMIDT: It has been hard going. I mean, I think it's a very competitive landscape out there. And every partnership takes a lot of work and effort, and making sure that it's really the right fit. But I think we've proven how robust the RFU and English rugby is, and I think, again, as we get closer and closer to 2015, I think that trend is only going to increase.


QUEST: RFU now -- just a couple of quick tweets on what would you tell your employer or prospective employer who asked for your passwords?

Agil Edward Ulba (ph) says, "It's rude, an invasion of my privacy."

"I would say," George Mason says, "give me your mistresses' details."

And Guillermo says, "Are you kidding? That information is not related to my skills. It is not needed."

Finally, "Create a new account and give them the login details."

@RichardQuest, what would you say? And don't be rude. "Profitable Moment" is next.


QUEST: Tonight's "Profitable Moment" -- excuse me -- we have all applied for jobs that we really wanted to get. And we've all had bosses that we really want to impress. But there are some things that no one should have to give up just to get ahead. And these days your Facebook password, your Gmail login details, whichever seek social network it should be, it should not be one of them.

Where on Earth does anyone, you think, that they have the authority to demand that kind of access to somebody's personal life, unless a job of security is involved? What kind of employer needs that level of surveillance to decide who to hire and who to promote? When it comes to using your office computer to do personal business, well, that's a different matter.

This is more than just the stuffy management types catching up and cracking down. It is a gross invasion of privacy. At the end of the day, well, when all's said and done, what it really comes down to, would you want to work for a boss that is after that sort of information when all is said and done?

@RichardQuest is where we've had the details on what you would tell people. And I promise you, I can't repeat on our program as is most of them.

And that is QUEST MEANS BUSINESS for tonight. I'm Richard Quest in London. Whatever you're up to in the hours ahead, I hope it's profitable. The news continues. This is CNN.