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QUEST MEANS BUSINESS

Volkswagen Stops After Hours E-Mail; In Focus: Miners Sue; U.S. Congress Passes Tax Break Extension for Middle Class; Best Buy Online Gift Orders Go Unfulfilled, Cancelled

Aired December 23, 2011 - 14:00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: "Oh, Come All Ye, Faithful", a Congress deal leaves Obama joyful and triumphant.

"Oh, Star of Wonder, Star of Night" how do we stop you flashing bright. Staff are told ditch the Blackberry.

And "Wait `Til the Sun Shines, Nelly" we are at the New York Stock Exchange for a Christmas tradition.

I'm Richard Quest. I may be Friday, I still mean business.

Good evening.

It was a Christmas present, a day or two early, for workers in the United States. President Barack Obama has signed another two months for tax breaks for Americans. It brought to an end another bitter battle with the U.S. Congress. It is the last economic act of a rocky year in the U.S.

For more on Barack Obama's rare win with Congress, Kate Boulden joins us from Washington.

Kate, once again, do get us into the weeds of the payroll deduction- payroll-

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You promised that we could this time, though.

QUEST: Right, well---I'll keep my word in the new year. First of all, the deal was done, who won, who lost?

BOLDUAN: Ah, that's a good question. I'll tell you, speaking politically, since a lot of this had to do with politics. As you know, Richard, as we were talking about last time. It seems like this was a pretty good win, politically, for President Obama. As he is heading into an election year, he can tout that he, along with the Democrats, were able to hold firm for middle class Americans, to push for this tax cut to be extended.

Who comes out not looking like the winner? It seems like House Republicans do. And the reason being is that up to this point, as you know, House Republicans, House Speaker John Boehner, they were standing firm, opposed to a two-month extension. They said that they-they had a real argue not just because they are opposed, they said it doesn't provide the certainty that Americans need, that businesses need, that everyone needs in terms of tax policy. They are sick of this kicking the can down the road, making the tough decisions later.

But in the end, they were faced with a very tough reality, increased- mounting, mounting, pressure from really, across the board, including even from Republicans themselves, specifically Senate Republicans, who said, honestly, you need to cut your losses. Take the short-term extension and live to fight another day.

In the end that seems exactly what the ended up doing because they faced a real threat, Richard, if they did not go along with the tax cut- extending this tax cut, that Democrats would be railing against them, that they effectively allowed a tax increase to happen. And as a Republican, in an election year, that is not a label that you want, Richard.

QUEST: And we thank you, Kate, for giving us an early Christmas present. And not getting us too involved in the details. But I promise you, promise, I'll let you get in the details some this-

(CROSS TALK)

BOLDUAN: Our viewers are going to hold you to this. There are a lot of people watch this right now.

QUEST: Sometime before Easter.

(LAUGHTER)

QUEST: Many thanks, indeed, Kate. Many thanks. Have a good Christmas, yourself

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

QUEST: So, on the night before Christmas Eve, as President Obama gets this gift and American get the money. We thought we'd imagine what the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet-To-Come would be showing for Mr. Obama.

(DESK BELL CHIMES)

Join me in the Dickensian library.

So, we start with Ghosts of Christmas Past. For President Obama it is a Congress that acts like Scrooge. A Congress that, during the course of the year, has been deadlocked over deficits, and economy that has been sluggish and an S&P downgrade of the U.S. economy to AA, plus. That is Christmas Past, gone and delivered.

Now, for the Christmas Present, little cheer; a $15 trillion debt that he goes into next year with. Unemployment still up towards 9 percent and perhaps not going to reduce by much more. A Euro crisis hurting confidence, a Federal Reserve Bank that his having to do QE, and still battles with Congress.

Christmas Past, Christmas Present, but he will be most concerned with Christmas future, Christmas yet to come. Because could this be the president's last Christmas as president? 2012 is the presidential election. There is a new Congress. Battles are planned for January, we have the payroll tax, again, coming back in a couple of months. The deficit, of course, they failed to do the deficit with the budget commission, so automatic cuts will come into play.

All of this, in a year, Christmas yet to come, Christmas Present, Christmas Past, you start to see why there isn't a great deal of cheer when it comes to the economy. But the Dow Jones Industrials, as it moves to the end of the year, well, that is not bad. That does reflect what was happening with the vote in Congress. Up 88 points, a gain of 0.8 percent, over 12,000, that is probably where we are going to go, into the Christmas break. And then of course, on to the new year.

Traders in London started their Christmas holidays early. There was no real stock market action here. As for the rest of Europe, financial shares performed well, in Frankfurt, and in Zurich. Deutsche Bank was up 1.7 percent. Swiss Re up 2.8. Total in Paris, was a sizeable gainer at 2 percent. Factor in the course of the week, not bad, all things considered. You had a FTSE up 2, the DAX up 3, a CAC up 4, and an SMI up nearly percent. The markets, as to how they have ended into the Christmas period.

When we come back from Best Buy to the worst buy; customers are told their online orders will not make it in time for Christmas. We're in New York for that story, QUEST MEANS BUSINESS.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

QUEST: The traders, they are a gathering. It is Christmas Eve in New York. And they are getting ready for the festive singing of "Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nelly". When they start singing it is a tradition at the New York Stock Exchange when they do start singing it in about four or five minutes from now we will bring that to you. And we'll enjoy a bit of that. It is an old Depression era song. That they always sing. It goes back to the 1930s. "Wait `til the sun shines-I can never remember the words.

Felicia Taylor is with us in New York.

And perhaps remembers the words-well, not that she remembers the Depression era, I hasten to add.

(LAUGHTER)

FELICIA TAYLOR, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Thanks a lot!

QUEST: I'm sorry. That sort of-that wasn't-it didn't quite work as I had hoped it was going to work.

Hey, look, Felicia, companies that have fallen foul of consumers are having problems this Christmas. Best Buy, in particular, orders made, orders not delivered, orders canceled. It is going to mean last-minute shopping panic. What's going on?

F. TAYLOR: Well, basically the company is saying your order has not been filled. And as you said, in some cases it has actually been entirely cancelled. They launched a campaign in November, on their Web site, to thwart the competition. And sales were great. They certainly accomplished it. But they didn't have enough stock. So they have been able to say, just two days before Christmas day, to a lot of customers that we can't fill these orders and in come cases they are actually going to be cancelled.

So, what is amazing, though, they had the nerve to make fun of Santa in some of their commercials. Take a look.

(BEGIN BEST BUY AD)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't believe how many great gifts you have for under $100. This Kindle, this Nikon?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Santa better watch out, huh?

(END BEST BUY AD)

F. TAYLOR: Unbelievable that they would do this. They have issued a statement saying that, we are very sorry for the inconvenience that this has caused. And we have notified the effected customers.

However, a lot of people have been posting on their Facebook wall. One saying, "Looks like Santa is going to be kicking some Best Buy tail, at least in the delivery department."

And another one says, "I hope Santa leaves your CEO a little bit of coal." So we thought we'd bring some out, about that. "And your ad agency as well." But you know, a lot of customers that we spoke to said that Best Buy really should have known better about this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It if happened to me I probably would not be back on their online site buying. So, it says something about whether they can deliver on the promise that they made.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But I think that horrible. I think the same way you keep inventory in the stores, the same way you should keep it online. Especially, if it is this time of year, it is usually gifts and things like that. And you want to give people what they ask for.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You always have to honor what made an offer to me for. If you backpedal, at the end of the day, they are not going to go bankrupt behind a deal like that. Honor what you gave me the deal for. Don't lure me in and then kind of turn your back on me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

F. TAYLOR: Well, and that is the think that analysts are worried about, that down the line this is going to affect the sales for Best Buy, because customers just simply aren't going to return to the Web site, because they can't trust them to actually fill their orders. And that is the biggest concern for Best Buy moving forward.

QUEST: All right, but there is a store in London that has a similar problem. A much posher store than Best Buy, Fortnum & Masons, a sort of place where perhaps, Ms. Taylor would be seen shopping for her Christmas hamper, except-except they had trouble in the IT department and they haven't been-

F. TAYLOR: Oh, no.

QUEST: Yes, yes, trouble in the IT department can be very nasty, very painful. Anyway, they did not deliver Christmas hampers. So it does raise the question Felicia, do companies set themselves up for major falls when they do this at Christmas?

F. TAYLOR: Absolutely. But you know this has been sort of the year of the corporate gaff. We saw Netflix make a remarkably silly and absurd move by raising its prices by 60 percent. Obviously they are going to loose subscribers. That was an absurd thing to do. They lost about 800,000 people by doing that.

What is even more amazing is that the CEO, Reed Hastings, has said that he is not going to do an about face and change that platform. So, he has lost business. His share price has gone down 58 percent. And just today they announced that they are going to cut his stock options next year by 50 percent. So that is a $1.5 million loss to him.

We have seen Blackberry, also had widespread outages that went down across the world. They had disappointing quarterly results. That stock has been down about 77 percent. And basically they have been pushed aside by the iPhone and the iPad. So, companies have truly not made some very good moves throughout the year, but yet they are not willing to go back and make amends. So, yes, of course, you need to know you are going to have inventory problems at Christmastime.

Why Best Buy didn't stock up is a mystery to me.

QUEST: All right. Stay where you are, with your coal. Cleaning your hands from the coal-to the New York Stock Exchange we go, where they are about to start singing, we believe, "Wait `Til the Sun Shines, Nelly". It is a song, as you will know, Felicia, goes back to the Depression era, doesn't it? When they-on Wall Street, they had to have some cheer and some good times, as I recall?

F. TAYLOR: And actually the song was made famous by Bing Crosby. I think it was written in 1936. But you are right. This is a tradition on Wall Street and here they go. It looks like they are about to start.

(SINGING)

F. TAYLOR: Oh, no, Richard, you are not going to bait me to sing on air. That is never going to happen.

QUEST: There you are, a tradition of Christmas.

Felicia, we'll do it again on New Year's Eve, because I think they sing it again on New Year's Eve, the 1930s song. Felicia Taylor-

F. TAYLOR: Look, she is still cleaning her hands. The last time she's ever touched some coal. Felicia Taylor, in New York, we thank you for that. We come back, QUEST MEANS BUSINESS, we're going to tell you how to run Christmas, ship-shape orderly, corporate style. Who is the chief exec of Christmas in your house?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

QUEST: "Home Alone" with guests to host and elaborate dinners to prepare, Christmas can be a chaotic time. To get it right you need structure, you need discipline, you need someone to step up and become the chief executive of Christmas Incorporated.

Join us at the super screen and you will see what I mean. So, this is Christmas in the way in which it operates. These are the people that you will have on the Christmas around. First of all, who is the chief executive? Well, the chief executive is clearly going to be, Mother. Now, why do we say that? Because Mother is in charge and you'll hear us have a bit more. Who else do we have around the Christmas table?

Mother is chief executive. Mother, wife, whatever you like. You have, the chairman is Dad. You may be thinking this is all very sexist. Chairman, Dad, CEO, Mom-all will be revealed. The board of directors, your siblings, the other relatives, the aunts, the uncles, the ones who come along who will cause mischief and mayhem.

The majority shareholder, that is the Mother-in-Law, she used to do this. She was the old chief exec and she is determined to have her say. As for the silent, partner, Granddad; he jus sits there quietly. But he will though, he will make his views known when it is time. And finally, the shareholders, they are the children. They are the ones that-remember what the role of the shareholders is. They invest and you have to keep them happy. So, on our program and in our company, Christmas, Inc., it is the share holders.

But we really do need to focus now on the chief executive. The person who is at the helm. The sort of person who has to manage expectations. She has to-the chief exec make sure that arguments are settled. And she has to have a strategic direction for the Christmas lunch.

David Taylor is a leadership expert and author of the "Naked Leader" series. I put it to him that Mom is the chief exec in our family tree.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID TAYLOR, AUTHOR, "NAKED LEADER" SERIES: I think you're half right. She is the chief executive. She is also the finance director, the HR director, and the chief operations officer. She, basically, is all of the important roles.

QUEST: OK, then, where does that leave Dad? We think Dad is probably the chairman of the board, chairman.

D. TAYLOR: Yes, chairman of the board is pretty accurate, because it sounds really important, but actually you haven't got a lot to do. I mean from my point of view I suppose I put the rubbish out. I'm in charge of the remote control, and that is pretty much it. In fact, they took the remote control away from me, I think I'd be in trouble So it is the rubbish and hanging around looking as if you're important.

QUEST: Basically, that is what the chairman does, isn't it? You are wheeled out to look important?

D. TAYLOR: Yes, in the public eye.

QUEST: So to some extent, poor Mom has really got the difficult end, the chief exec. She has the strategy of running the day.

D. TAYLOR: Yes, but she wouldn't have it any other way. I mean, imagine how stressed she'd be, for example, if the man tried to be the chief executive, just a Christmas. It would be a disaster. So, you know, I think she likes that role. That is the role that she has been in every previous Christmas and she isn't going to change.

QUEST: So, where does everybody else fit into this Christmas fiasco?

D. TAYLOR: That's a really good question, Richard. Because, of course, people come and go at Christmas and families see each other for the first in ages. So I think probably relatives, if you have been married or you've been together as partners for a short time, you treat relatives as customers, because they are very important.

After a while, though, they become very troublesome because you get so used to them. Familiarity breeds discontent, I can assure you. So, you start avoiding them. And then you'll find that people who have been married longer tend to go for longer walks with their relatives, or go to see films, to see films because you cannot discuss things for two to three hours. Children are the most important though.

QUEST: Right.

D. TAYLOR: Children are the shareholders and the non-execs all in one.

QUEST: Shareholders and the-the children are the shareholders and the non-execs?

D. TAYLOR: Yes, well, they look after the interest of the shareholders and they probably have some shares as well, because they come up with the ideas. They are great at innovation, aren't they? I mean, two children? Don't you say to a child, if the child has an idea, they don't usually say, I'd better check with the health and safety executive, do they? They just have the ideas. They are persistent as well. Knock a child down, they get back up again. They are quite extraordinary. That is how they learn to walk.

And I think the most important thing about children is they keep your life in balance. Because, you know-

QUEST: Like the non-execs.

D. TAYLOR: Exactly like the non-execs are supposed to do, yes. Because in children's eyes, working longer hours, Richard, is like detention. You are not very good at what you do. So you really have to answer to your children in that respect.

QUEST: All right. So, we've got it. We know how everybody is going to play their roles at the Christmas. But now Mom as chief executive has to managed the expectations of everybody there. She has to organize the way the day is going to run. But what about strategic decision-making and problem solving and resolution, dispute resolution?

D. TAYLOR: Well all good CEOs are great at thinking on their feet. So I think she kind of just trusts herself with regards to the day-to-day stuff. But at the end of the day, Richard, the whole of Christmas, for the chief executive, for the Mom and the wife and the women, comes down to one thing really. Do they get the presents they want? And supposing I was going to add another, do the people they give presents to, enjoy those presents?

QUEST: What would your tip be, to the chief executive? Because the "Naked Leader" series of books, so you are obviously well versed in the higher echelons of management and strategic direction; give the chief exec advice.

D. TAYLOR: One piece of advice, keep asking yourself, before Christmas, during Christmas, and after Christmas, what would Santa do?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(LAUGHTER)

QUEST: And with that piece of advice, you cannot go wrong. If you are the chief exec-first of all, do you agree with our chief exec, our chairman of board, our silent partner, our shareholders? The Twitter is, of course, @RichardQuest, and he e-mail address is Quest @ CNN. Com.

From one Christmas song to another, traders on Wall Street have been serenading us with "Wait `Til The Sun Shines, Nelly". We'll get the Yule- tide mood on Wall Street after the break. QUEST MEANS BUSINESS, good evening.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

QUEST: You know it is Christmas when the traders in New York start singing. And in fine voice they were, too. The President of Seaport Securities, Ted Weisberg was there amongst these Wall Street choristers, treating us to "Wait `Til The Sun Shines, Nelly".

And Teddy joins me now from New York.

How many years have you been singing that song?

TED WEISBERG, PRESIDENT, SEAPORT SECURITIES: Oh, I thought you wouldn't ask that question. This would be the 43rd year.

QUEST: Wow. OK, 43 years. Now as we look it is a Depression era song, where people were looking to the future, with hope.

WEISBERG: Right.

QUEST: As you look to next year and as we end this year, Teddy, how do you balance the books of the year?

WEISBERG: Well, I think, just in terms of the popular averages it has been a complete non-event of a year. And I would say beyond that, it is probably a year like no year that I've ever experienced in terms of the stock market and how it relates to activities in the world. The markets continue to be completely hostage to the politicians both in the Eurozone and the U.S., which is never a good thing for the stock markets.

And we have economic and, in fact, geopolitical unrest...

QUEST: Right.

WEISBERG: -- as far as the eye can see.

Yet, -- yet the markets, for whatever reasons, sort of hang in there.

So I guess -- I guess at some level, it is a moral victory.

QUEST: OK. A moral victory, perhaps, but was it difficult to trade or to advise in these periods of such extreme volatility?

WEISBERG: I would say almost impossible. And this whole -- this whole world of volatility which, you know, is a -- which we experience it not only -- not all because of world events, by the way. It's -- a lot of it has to do with mechanically how stocks trade because of changes in our marketplace thanks to regulation from both the SEC and from Congress.

So there are a number of factors. But, clearly, the volatility has made it almost impossible for most investors, simply because they are not prepared for the volatility. And perhaps it's been good for some traders and high frequency traders in particular, who -- who have the ability to take advantage of the volatility for -- but for most mortals, myself included, it's been extremely difficult. And -- and unfortunately, I don't see that changing going forward.

QUEST: Whenever we meet Teddy, in New York, you're -- you are the eternal optimist and you always give me good cheer and -- and thoughts for the future.

Are you going to be optimistic next year?

WEISBERG: Yes. Listen, if -- if -- if you didn't view the glass as half full, there'd be no reason to get up in the morning. And so the answer is I am -- I am optimistic about next year. Listen, we have some big possible game-changers. We get some resolutions in the Eurozone. That is a game-changer. Perhaps we get a change in political leadership in the U.S., and I realize that's a political issue, but from the standpoint of the markets, that could be a huge game-changer.

So there -- there are things out there that could really, really inject a lot of positive...

QUEST: Right.

WEISBERG: -- environment in -- into the markets, in addition to which, corporate America continues to do very well and there are, in fact, signs that the U.S. economy is, in fact, showing some positive...

QUEST: Right.

WEISBERG: -- signs of growth.

QUEST: Teddy, have a good Christmas.

We'll maybe talk to you before the new year.

Thank you very much for joining us from New York.

And always leading the singing right at the front, Ted Weisberg.

When we come back, Volkswagen has kicked the CrackBerry habit for many of its employees. Staff will no longer receive e-mails after hours. The impact on the business -- now that is a good question.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

QUEST: Volkswagen has given its staff an early Christmas present -- blessed release from the little electronic ball and chain of the BlackBerrys that you saw just then. E-mails will no longer be sent outside of working hours. You get e-mails -- well...

(COUGHING)

QUEST: Excuse me, a bit chest today.

Come at the -- in the library, you will see.

OK, what they have done, Volkswagen, because of the complaints by trade unions and workers, e-mails only start getting sent half an hour before work and they only keep arriving until half an hour after the end of the working day.

The rules cover German employees who are members of the trade unions. It doesn't employ -- it doesn't, of course, apply to senior and directorate staff. And even if you don't get e-mails, you can still get your phone calls.

But it does mean, for many staff, no e-mails half an hour -- until half an hour before work or half an hour after.

They're -- the reason, of course, is because of the complaints that, frankly, home and work have just become blurred. Apparently it's bad for performance, online -- being online 24/7. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, apparently companies with company phones work more than 50 hours a week -- 62 percent they said that they had increased their work load.

The complaint is home and work life are simply now out of balance.

Other companies are doing similar sort of things. Henkel is the washing machine maker -- power drill maker, pertil (ph). They are switching off e-mail between Christmas and New Year. And the French firm, Atos, has banned internal e-mail from 2014. Their idea is not quite to reduce the -- the pressure, but to move to social networking. But the same -- is the same principle, complaints of home and work in balance.

Do you think and do we think this is a good idea?

Is it even realistic?

Even if you can ignore the maddeningly blinking light, can you control after work demands without getting fired or losing a customer?

Earlier this year, the "Miami Herald" columnist Cindy Krischer Goodman asked that very question.

Cindy joins me now from Miami.

You asked that very question and what was the answer?

CINDY KRISCHER GOODMAN, COLUMNIST, "MIAMI HERALD": Well, my answer -- the answer I got was that people are finding it just too hard to shut down in the evening. It's become a -- it's become a habit. It's become a -- just something that people have gotten used to. And it's not even something that our -- our bosses or -- or supervisors are demanding from us. It's -- it's sort of both. We accept the expectation that we're available at all hours because we're so used to instant communications.

QUEST: Right. Now...

KRISCHER: So it...

QUEST: All right...

KRISCHER: -- some of it is self-imposed. A lot of it is self- imposed.

QUEST: Right. Now, if that is the case, and if in any event, if my boss said to me, Richard, I don't expect you to look at your e-mail, I'd still do it because I think he wouldn't believe -- you know, I wouldn't believe that he meant it.

So that maybe Volkswagen is right to switch off the system, thus preventing us from working.

What do you think?

KRISCHER: I think that -- I mean that -- that would probably be the only way you can stop some people from checking e-mail late at night, because we're so accustomed to doing it, even if the boss tells us not to, we're still going to do it, because we feel like maybe we're going to miss something or maybe there's an important e-mail that's coming in or it's on our phones and our little -- our ping, we're getting notifications and -- and we are just in such a habit of -- of looking to see, you know, what we need to respond to?

So maybe the only way is to shut it off. But then you have the other side of it, you're going to get there in the morning and you're going to be overwhelmed with e-mail the next day.

QUEST: I...

KRISCHER: E-mail...

QUEST: -- Cindy, Cindy, I think I hear in your voice somebody who can't escape from her BlackBerry.

(LAUGHTER)

KRISCHER: Well, I don't have a BlackBerry, but I do check my e-mail late at night, so I admit to that. And I do get on the computer late at night. That -- that's just sort of what I've become accustomed to doing. So you're right there. And I think if someone told me I didn't need to, I might do it anyway, just to see if I -- if I'm missing something.

But, you know, I talked to a lot of lawyers who tell me that their clients are expecting it from them and if they want to keep their clients, they need to respond. And -- and because of the competition out there today...

QUEST: Right.

KRISCHER: -- for the dollars, it's so competitive. Everybody feels like we've got to please a -- you know, we're competitive for jobs, we're competitive for customers. We feel like we can't afford to miss an important e-mail.

QUEST: You are a lost cause, Cindy, a lost cause.

But many thanks for joining us.

Happy Christmas.

Put the e-mail away.

I'll probably -- I'll e-mail her later on and I'll bet she replies in the middle of the night.

When we come back now, let's take a look at the weather forecast.

Tom Sater is at the World Weather Center.

We know it's not going to be a white Christmas in large parts of Europe.

TOM SATER, ATS METEOROLOGIST: In large parts, you're absolutely right. We had our own fair share of problems yesterday, Richard. Last evening here in Atlanta, where CNN World Headquarters are, we were under a tornado watch. At one point, a tornado warning. Doppler indicated radar just out our back door in Peachtree City. Over 1,000 flights were delayed or canceled in Atlanta yesterday.

And there will be some problems in Europe.

Take a look at the satellite picture. First of all, this is a cold front entering the picture. Signature on satellite when you have patchy clouds like this, that is some cold air. Cold cumulus air that will be really brought in on the -- on the heels of some very strong blustery winds. And that will pretty much bring in some cold air all the way across into Central Europe and down into the Balkan countries.

The other end of the story here is this little trough here, which has had cold air with it. Still, a spin with this area of low pressure into Western Turkey, high elevation snows in Northern Turkey. They had their fair share from Macedonia over toward Bulgaria yesterday with snow. More on that in a minute.

But this cold front means business as it slides through. More snows for the Alps. You know, they didn't have any snow until the beginning of this month.

Those that owned ski resorts or who worked there were probably wondering, are we ever going to, you know, open up?

Well, now they've had their fair share.

A new area of low pressure will then develop. As it slides toward cclyy into Southern Italy and more snowfall for the Balkan countries.

Here's that pool of cold air sliding to the east, southeast. It's been quite clear in Portugal and Spain. France looking nice, at least along the coast. But this cold air is really going to, you know, you're going to feel it. A real chill in the air in the days ahead.

Snowfall, too, in the next 36, 48 hours, with the passage of that cold front. We're looking at Innsbruck possibly of 15.5 centimeters. In fact, as mentioned, from Macedonia over to Bulgaria, Sofia picked up a good 15 inches of snowfall, excuse me -- centimeters, that is. And it continues to be under snow. And we're going to continue to watch it slide toward the east.

Now, your Christmas Day forecast, London, a little breezy, but 11 with some sunshine. Rome, 12. Cold in Moscow, eight below degrees Celsius. And if you're flying, here are the possibilities of delays. Munich, a hour to an hour-and-a-half. That could mean Heathrow, as well. In fact, Amsterdam now so bad. But winds are the big stories, as you see.

Dublin looking at an hour to an hour-and-a-half delay. And of course, Vienna as well. Winds are the big story.

As they say, Richard, you know, whether the weather be fine, whether the weather be not, whether the weather -- whatever the weather, whether we like it or not.

Safe travels to you.

QUEST: You can't do that. That -- that's my favorite one.

Thank you very much for that.

Whether the weather -- we'll come back to that one later.

All right, finally tonight, a tradition on our programs, the true cost of Christmas.

No one complains about spending Christmas with their true love. Sending gifts to them is a bit more complicated. You guess where we're going with this.

The 12 days of Christmas. The ultimate Christmas list. And every year, PNC comes up with how much it all costs in its Christmas Price Index. We need some music, please.

(music)

QUEST: So, there are four of the most significant items. We start off, of course, with birds -- two turtle doves.

(music)

QUEST: The cost is up 25 percent. Also more expensive on the bird front, the partridge. The partridge in a pear tree is up 14 percent. Partridges and pear trees both were more expensive.

As for five gold rings, the price there actually fell because gold was down.

(music)

QUEST: Yes! Retail gold has fallen so it's only $645 for that lot.

And when it comes to maids a milking and labor and the drummers and the pipers, I'm afraid to say not much changed.

Why?

Unemployment is higher. And when that happens, wages stay where they are.

(music)

QUEST: So if you were to buy the whole lot of the 12 days of Christmas, this is how much it would cost.

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QUEST: Twenty-four thousand. But, of course, remember, you actually have to buy it again and again and again because of the 12 days of Christmas, over 340 presents. This is how much that would cost if you were to buy the lot.

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QUEST: Over $100,000. It is a gain of more than 4 percent on the year and the first time that we've actually seen the total cost of Christmas at over $100,000, a gain of 4.4 percent.

And that is QUEST MEANS BUSINESS for tonight and for this Friday.

Thank you for your time and attention.

(music)

QUEST: And as always, as you celebrate, whatever you're celebrating, I hope that whatever it is, it is profitable.

I'll see you on Monday.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBYN CURNOW, HOST: You're watching MARKETPLACE AFRICA.

I'm Robyn Curnow in Johannesburg.

Now, the wealth of this city, in fact, much of the continent, has been built on mining. But for the miners themselves, years spent working underground can have serious implications for their health.

Nkepile Mabuse now reports on how one group of miners is taking one company to the British High Court.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NKEPILE MABUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In these tranquil hills of the Eastern Cape, far from the markets that determine its value, I've come to investigate what activists say is the real price of South Africa's gold. Thirteen years ago, Mankazana Madulwini was diagnosed with silicosis, an incurable lung disease he contracted after years of working as a drill operator in the country's gold mines.

"I've spent months in hospital," the 63 -year-old tells me, "with an aching chest. I've never worked anyplace else. Mining is all that I've ever known."

His condition was certified an occupational ailment by the government and he was awarded $2,800 by Western Deep Levels, a mine then owned by multinational Anglo-American.

South African law compels mining companies to contribute to a compensation fund for work-related injuries and disease.

RICHARD MEEREN, LAWYER: It's certainly in the victims' interests.

MABUSE: But British lawyer, Richard Meeren, says the awards are inadequate because they fail to take loss of income as well as pain and suffering into account. He's lodged papers in the London High Court to sue 11 gold mining companies associated with Anglo-American, which now has its headquarters in London.

MEEREN: It negligently controlled and advised the mines on which the claimants were employed, with the result that they were exposed to excessive levels of dust.

MABUSE: At the height of gold mining in apartheid South Africa, the Eastern Cape was the biggest recruitment area and Anglo-American one of the largest mine owners. It is here where Nombulelo Matu has helped track some 700 miners sick and some dying from tuberculosis and silicosis, who are now part of the claim. She's the secretary of the ex-mine workers union, a foot soldier in the multi-million dollar lawsuit against Anglo-American.

Some of the ex-miners don't even have money to get treatment," she tells me. "Others are on medication, but are not getting better. Many of them have died."

In the district of Lebotti (ph), she's adding more names to an ever increasing list of claimants.

Mteteleni Ndamase was dismissed from an Anglo-American owned mine in 1987. He says he was given a payout of $400 and a year later, diagnosed with TB. "I'm sick. I can't work. I'm finished," he tells me. "Even while speaking to you right now, my chest is tightening."

(on camera): For months, they would be away from home, many returning to their families once a year for Christmas. Now they're back permanently. But it hasn't been a joyous homecoming, haunted by disease and the prospect of death.

(voice-over): Anglo-American declined to interviewed by CNN but issued a statement expressing deep sympathy for the former miners with silicosis, saying, quote, "Anglo-American's absolute priority has always been to ensure that our people return home safe and well at the end of every working day and working lifetime. In addition to the health and welfare of our own people and their families, we make a significant contribution toward strengthening the health care system in South Africa."

The company claims it had an ownership interest in the gold companies for which these miners worked and that, quote, "These gold companies which employed the mine workers were responsible for the health and safety of their employees and took reasonable steps to protect them."

MEEREN: If that's true, how is it that thousands of people have contracted a disease which is caused by prolonged and intensive exposure to dust?

How could that happen?

MABUSE: Back in Umtata, more former miners are coming forward. In Matu's determination, they find hope. But surviving every day is an uphill battle.

"We are the ones that mined that gold. Now we're dying. The mining companies are rich while life for us back home is tough. I have small children who I need to educate," he says. "I should be working, but I don't have the strength."

"Seeing how they live is hard," she says. "I can't sit back and do nothing when I've witnessed their suffering."

Her father was a miner -- a miner who died from a lung disease. For her, this fight is personal.

Nkepile Mabuse, CNN, Umtata, South Africa.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

CURNOW: Nkepile tells us that in a democratic South Africa, the laws are more stringent. Miners receive protective clothing and they're tested regularly for occupational diseases.

Now, after the break, as many African countries try to diversify from mining, we speak to one woman who's trying to harness the power of the Internet.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CURNOW: She says her company was one of the first to lay a submarine cable linking Europe and West Africa, bringing broadband to that region.

Well, her name is Funke Opeke and she's the CEO of Main One Cable company in Nigeria.

And she sat down with CNN's Christian Purefoy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTIAN PUREFOY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (INAUDIBLE), you started this company all by yourself, is -- is that right?

FUNKE OPEKE, CEO, MAIN ONE CABLE: Yes, I did, right from my dining table or my living room, getting out what could be done and what I thought the opportunity was.

PUREFOY: And what is the opportunity here?

OPEKE: The opportunity is when you look across the rest of the world at how people and businesses communicate and how they interact today, electronic communication is such a big part of that. We're largely addressing ourselves as being in the information age. But when you look at Africa, we are yet to come into the information age in terms of the number of people that have access to that common utility that people have in the information age, which is the Internet. And over the time where it's become more of an information age than the industrial age, Africa has actually lagged behind.

I believe, we believe that we really need to change that in order to make Africa, Nigeria, competitive again.

PUREFOY: You were the first fiber optic cable, the first business of this kind setting up here in quite -- what is quite a virgin territory for the Internet.

OPEKE: Yes.

PUREFOY: Is there the demand?

Is there the business that you hoped for when you started?

OPEKE: Yes, there's clearly the demand. And we think we're only just scratching the surface. There is a lot of unmet demand. People know they want better access to the Internet. They want faster, cheaper. They want to be able to drive new kinds of applications, access different types of content.

But there is a lot of work to be done. It's also more challenging here logistically to get things done. So -- and the infrastructure that is in place to drive that growth is -- is not as robust or mature as you have in other parts of the world.

So that, indeed, is -- is the biggest challenge that we see, is getting the capacity we have in this big pipe that we brought into Nigeria and Ghana across the region, to reach the people and businesses where they need the service.

PUREFOY: And the challenges from when you had the idea to now, actually going out and selling the product to clients, what have been the main challenges?

OPEKE: Raising capital was the very first one. So grinfield (ph), trying to raise $240 million in this market is -- is -- is still significant. So that was a challenge.

PUREFOY: And it's all African financing?

OPEKE: It's all African financing. You know, but, again, you know, what you find is that there was a great deal of individuals we met before the institutions came in, and, you know, they heard the story, they kicked the tires a little bit but at the end of the day they kept writing those checks. And we got up to $240 million across the -- the continent.

PUREFOY: And is this a business for you?

Is it all just about making money?

Or do you want to try and do something else?

OPEKE: One could not be about making money, because I -- I look at those people who wrote checks, you know, half a million dollars or in that range, the initial investors, when I had no license, it was, you know, a business plan on a sheet of paper. And -- and it really wasn't about making money. It was about a really deep understanding and desire to transform our society and to say that, you know, we could address some of these problems Africa had, that we understood the challenges.

PUREFOY: (INAUDIBLE).

OPEKE: There was a lot of work to be done. And -- and that we wanted to pull people on board, pull ourselves together to address those problems.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

CURNOW: We're online at CNN.com/marketplaceafrica. All of our interviews and stories are posted there.

But for me, Robyn Curnow, here in Johannesburg, see you again next week.

END