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Bankia Bailout; Athens Market Tumbles, Other European Markets Up; Lackluster Day for US Markets Ahead of Holiday Weekend; PIMCO CEO Calls Greek Exit From Eurozone Inevitable

Aired May 25, 2012 - 14:00   ET


NINA DOS SANTOS, HOST: Bankia's banks are helped. Spain is in talks with its troubled banks.

On fair trade, the EU says that Argentina is not playing by the rules.

And catching the dragon by the tail. A success for SpaceX.

I'm Nina Dos Santos, and this is QUEST MEANS BUSINESS.

Good evening. First, it was part nationalized, and now it's back for more public money. Bankia's expected to ask the Spanish government for something like $23 billion as the cracks begin to widen in Spain's banking sector.

Shares in Bankia have been suspended, and it's now deciding the exact amount of money that it needs from the government to recapitalize its books. The Spanish deputy prime minister said before the bank's board meeting that the government was ready to offer its support.


SORAYA SAENZ DE SANTAMARIA, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER OF SPAIN (through translator): As you know, the board of Bankia is meeting this afternoon and will announce the recapitalization plans for the bank, plans which will then have to be analyzed.

On behalf of the state, the government has made its intention clear: to provide aid in the situation and, above all, to send everyone a message of security and confidence in an entity that is strong, has a future and, with these new circumstances, will have the support of the Spanish state.

I'm not going to go into specific numbers, since that is up to the bank and its accounts. Instead, we will stand ready as we find out more from the meeting this afternoon.


DOS SANTOS: Just the past hour we've learned that Standard and Poor's is now downgrading Bankia, as well as four other Spanish banks by one notch.

Though it's Bankia that is the first major casualty of Spain's bursting of the property bubble, as you can see, this is the trajectory of its shares so far this year, and they've actually fallen by more than 50 percent, as you can see here, since January 2012. Down about 56 percent, to be more precise.

Now, this is a stock that's lost about 40 percent of its value in just the month of May alone. Now, the chairman resigned on May the 7th, which was around about here, and then about two days later, this bank was part nationalized, as you can see. That is the low point on the part, around about here, towards the end of May.

Other European stock markets managed to finish a little bit higher on the end of the week as this news came in. The Big Three finished in the black after some last-minute games for them, though. Once again, as you can see on the chart there, it was basically Greece that bucked the trend, ending the day down about 3.5 percent to another 22-year low here.

It's, of course, been a miserable week for Athens. The Athens composite, there, the benchmark index has fallen almost 12 percent over the course of just the last five days. And by contrast, markets in other more buoyant markets, such as, for instance, Frankfurt, London, and also Paris, managed to close the week making just a few slim gains.

Let's have a quick look at how the US markets are poised to end the week. Remember that a lot of people are probably not going to be taking very risky positions over the course of this weekend because it's a long weekend, we have the Memorial Day holiday on Monday, which is when these markets will be shut. So, bit of a lackluster day, the markets poised to end the day down about a third of one percent.

The CEO of PIMCO, Mohamed El-Erian, says that a Greek exit from the eurozone now looks to be certain. I got the chance to sit down with him just before the show today.


MOHAMED EL-ERIAN, CEO, PIMCO: I think increasingly, a Greek exit is inevitable because the power has shifted from governments to people in the street. And what we're seeing are deposit outflows, and it's very hard to stop deposit outflows once they start.

DOS SANTOS: Having said that, though, a lot of people took a first look at those kind of figures, when it comes to the amount of money that have been taken out of Greek banks that the president was referring to. It looked more like a bank jog rather than a bank run, didn't it?

EL-ERIAN: Correct. But bank jogs, if you don't stop them, become bank runs. There's a famous line that if you see a line forming outside a bank, joining it. And if you don't have money in that bank, go to where you do have money and join the line there. So, it's very important to stop it. And until now, no steps have been taken to stop this bank jog.

DOS SANTOS: But the big problem here, surely, is that the framework that governs the eurozone doesn't allow countries like Greece to put capital controls and restrictions to prevent a bank run in itself. Is that not true?

EL-ERIAN: That is correct. And the alternative of altering the banks -- so you could do it. You could do it through three steps. One, a region-wide deposit insurance so that the average Greek feels confident. That's not the Greek government standing behind the deposit, but it's the eurozone. That would make a big difference.

DOS SANTOS: Which would be the ECB, for instance.

EL-ERIAN: Secondly, ECB providing liquidity into the system. And thirdly, countries putting in place the elements to change it. Now, we haven't seen any of these three steps.

DOS SANTOS: Well, we have seen cheap loans, the LTROs, long-term refinancing operations, by which the European Central Bank, half the central banks of the region, allows the banks to have some cheap financing and, in fact, unlimited amounts of it.

But it's not really solving the problem, because what they're doing is they're buying their own government debt, and those very banks have to be recapitalized, like in Spain.

EL-ERIAN: Correct. So, the banks have three problems. One, the ECB has addressed, which is liquidity. But capital adequacy and the asset of - - the quality of the assets they hold have not been addressed. And that's why this crisis won't go away. It is because central banks are bridges, but they have to be bridges to somewhere, and so far, this somewhere hasn't materialized.

DOS SANTOS: So, basically, we're not seeing enough done by the ECB at the moment. If we talk about Spain, how worried are you about Spain? Some people like Nouriel Roubini have been saying it's going to be a bailout, and that's inevitable. Surely not, it's too big.

EL-ERIAN: So, Spain has advantages and disadvantages. First, it is not Greece when it comes to deficits, debt, and public administration. Second, it's not yet Ireland in the sense they haven't taken over all the irresponsibility liabilities of the banking system.

So, Spain still has room for maneuver, but it has to move quickly, and it has to have help from outside. If it doesn't --

DOS SANTOS: What kind of help, though?

EL-ERIAN: Well, first it has to have a context. And that's what the eurozone is missing. If you ask someone in the street, what is the destination for the eurozone, they won't be able to answer, because the leaders are not willing to make the difficult decisions until now


DOS SANTOS: Well, the president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, or EBRD, says that it would be just too risky at this stage to introduce euro bonds. I spoke to him at the Astana Economic Forum in Kazakhstan earlier this week, and he told me that at the center of Europe's crisis is an underlying disparity between countries like Spain and places like Germany.


THOMAS MIROW, PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN BANK FOR RECONSTRUCTION AND DEVELOPMENT: The issue is that, in terms of competitiveness, the south has lost time and again against the northern countries, so that the internal imbalances have grown instead of being reduced.

DOS SANTOS: Where do you see this working out, though? Because obviously, we've got peripheral European countries that have a currency that is way to strong for their needs to regain competitiveness.

MIROW: Well, you can either put it that way, or the other way around and say these countries need to adapt. They have to go through an internal assessment and an internal alignment, i.e. addressing the issues of the labor markets, investing into R&D. If you look at R&D figures in the south, they are appalling.

DOS SANTOS: Recently, what we've heard is the IMF, the OECD, hugely influential institutions, advocating the creation of eurozone bonds. We're talking jointly issued eurozone debt. Are you a fan of that?

MIROW: I think it is not a crisis instrument. I do think it is a medium-term aim. A monetary union in the end should have these kind of tools. But to introduce it now would be, I think, highly risky.

Would it also be highly risky doing all sorts of things like, for instance, the LTRO issues that we've seen from the ECB? To a certain extent, isn't that sort of risky, because it's pushing the problem under the carpet?

MIROW: No, I think it helped for a while, because there was a liquidity problem in the European banking system, and it addressed these problems. But of course, it cannot address the more substantial issue of having too much debt in the private sector as well as in the public sector.

DOS SANTOS: Will Greece leave the eurozone?

MIROW: Nobody knows, but I would strongly discourage them. I do think that those who speak about this making things easier are wrong. The hardship for Greece would be even stronger, even heavier than it is already now. And it would insinuate strong doubts from the outside on the stability of the eurozone as such.


DOS SANTOS: Up next, accusations of unfair and protectionist trade practices. The EU Commissioner for Trade tells us why he thinks Argentina isn't playing by the rules.


DOS SANTOS: Europe says that Argentina is breaking trade rules and, as such, it wants the World Trade Organization to step in. The European Union says that this dispute is a separate issue from the part nationalization of a portion of the Spanish energy company, although it does say that it -- what happened with Repsol is just part of a symptom of the wider problem, here.

Let's just put a bit of context around this. Just last month, Argentina seized control of Repsol's YPF oil and gas units, and earlier today, the trade commissioner of the EU, Karel de Gucht, explained the WTO trade issue to CNN's Charles Hodson. Take a listen.


KAREL DE GUCHT, EUROPEAN UNION TRADE COMMMISSIONER: At the core of the problem is a completely arbitrary import regime that they have been establishing recently in Argentina.

We have had some problems with them for quite some time for a number of products, and now they have been generalizing this across the board, which means that they work with non-automatic licensing, which means that every time you want to export something, you have to ask for a license.

A lot of preregistration regulations also, and you also as a company have to balance your imports from Argentina and your exports to Argentina. Now, this is completely arbitrary.

What it really means is that you produce something for the Argentinian markets, where you have a client, but you are never sure whether you will be in a position to export this. This is unacceptable for us, and that's why we have decided to go to the WTO.

CHARLES HODSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But the fact is, this has been going on for a long time. I put it to you that this is really about Argentina's action over Repsol and privatizing, if you like, the Spanish government's share of that, or the Spanish company's share of that.

DE GUCHT: It is not, sir, because this generalization of the system whereby you have this import regime for all products dates from February. And immediately we started the inquiry about this and we're preparing ourselves for this case. And the Repsol case occurred in between. So, that's not our responsibility.

To the contrary, what is true is that, of course, what they did with Repsol is another proof of a very nationalistic and protectionist investment regime in Argentina. That's clear. But our action is in answer to what Argentina did in February, namely to have a general restrictive import regime for all products coming from amongst them, Europe. That was the real problem.

HODSON: What happens next, and do you have confidence in this process, that it will bring about the outcome which you want, which is, if you like, a level playing field in EU-Argentinian trade?

DE GUCHT: Well, the next phase is that now we have a period of 60 days within which we should have consultations, and I hope that we can resolve this matter within this period of 60 days. I hope that the Argentineans come forward with reasonable proposals.

HODSON: And if they don't, what action are you prepared to take?

DE GUCHT: If they don't, we will continue and we will officially introduce the case to the WTO and ask for a panel to be constituted that will have to -- make a judgment on what is happening. And we are very comfortable in this. We are convinced that the whole thing is completely contrary to the WTO rulebook.


DOS SANTOS: Time now for a Currency Conundrum for you out there. What is the world's most expensive coin? Is it A, the Flowing Hair silver US dollar? B, the 1933 Double Eagle $20 US coin, or C, the British ever deferred Double Florin? We'll have the answer to that interesting question a bit later on in this show. Please stay tuned.

The dollar's four-day rally against the euro, it seems, and the pound is slowing at the moment on this Friday's session. Right now, it's trading at just over 1.25 against the euro, and that represents a gain of around about a tenth of one percent. It's practically unchanged for the moment against the British pound and also the Japanese yen.


DOS SANTOS: Virgin has a new route to Vancouver. Richard Branson touched down with characteristic flair in the city just yesterday. It's the latest global destination and only Canadian city to join Virgin Atlantic.

Virgin will operate services four times a week until the 27th of October. I got the chance to speak to Sir Richard Branson earlier and began by asking him, A, why Vancouver? And B, why now?


RICHARD BRANSON, FOUNDER AND CHAIRMAN, VIRGIN GROUP: Well, first of all, I think it's important that companies like Virgin get out and expand in these difficult times. So, we're launching Vancouver this year, we're launching Mexico, we're launching Mumbai, and we're putting on an extra route to JFK.

Vancouver is a great city, it's a wealthy city, it's a beautiful city that Brits love to come to, because it's obviously got skiing, it's got lots of outdoor activities, and we think we can make a success of it. There's only two current competitors on that route.

DOS SANTOS: And financially speaking, though, all this kind of expansion costs money at a time when, of course, oil prices are still pretty high for carriers like yours. Is that one of the biggest risks going forward, even if oil prices have abated a little bit slightly?

BRANSON: Oil prices, I think, are likely to come down if things go horribly wrong in Europe, and that will obviously -- be a sort of hedge for the airline industry. If things go well in Europe, then I think oil prices will stay high, but at least the general economy will be reasonably secure going forward. So, I think the airline industry does have a natural hedge.

DOS SANTOS: And the kinds of routes that you were just saying you're expanding into, is it just, perhaps, not a coincidence that a lot of those are actually outside of Europe? Do you really fear for the eurozone? Is that one of the things that executives like you would be worried about at the moment?

BRANSON: Look. Obviously anybody in their right mind would be worried about what's happening in Europe. But having said that, if Virgin could get the slots to fly in Europe, we'd dearly love to set up a short- haul airline to feed our long-haul airline.

DOS SANTOS: Now, one of the big, ambitious projects that you're involved in is the sort of transition of space travel. How do you see this, going forward, as a commercial entity, say, about 20 years from now?

BRANSON: Ridiculously exciting. It's an historic week with -- Spaceship One has -- did three flights into space. Now you've got SpaceX doing an incredibly successful flight into space. So, the era of commercial spaceship travel is here.

Virgin Galactic, I think, would be the principle -- the principle spaceship company that will take people into space. SpaceX will be taking cargo loads into space. But together, I think we will -- transform space travel. We will bring it to thousands of people who would never have been able to dream about going to space.

And 20 years from now, hopefully we'll be starting to colonize another planet. There'll be very deep, deep probes into outer space. Maybe intercontinental travel at a fraction of the time that it currently takes people to travel.

So I think now that commercial enterprise has got its teeth into it, I think it's going to be a very, very exciting future.


DOS SANTOS: Sir Richard Branson speaking to me earlier on. Let's bring you some breaking news, which we have coming out of Spain. This is in reference to Bankia, the troubled bank over there. It is decided now that it's going to be strengthening its solvency with a contribution of capital from the state worth about 19 billion euros.

So this means after an emergency board meeting, what they decided to do is ask the Spanish government for 19 billion euros, in US dollars, that works out as being just shy of $24 billion US, slightly on the high end of analysts' expectations.

But remember that this is a company whose shares are currently suspended in Madrid. The company itself asked for the Madrid Stock Exchange to suspend them ahead of this extraordinary board meeting to try and figure out how much money they would need to recapitalize their books.

But nevertheless, it's a company's whose shares are down 56 percent year-to-date and 40 percent so far just in the month of May.

Let's move on. Elon Musk wants to go into competition with the likes of Sir Richard Branson, and he's taken a big step towards that goal these days. The billionaire engineer is the man behind SpaceX. This is the company that made history when its private spacecraft actually berthed at the International Space Station.

CNN's Lizzie O'Leary has been following this story for much of today, and she joins us now live from Washington. So first off, Lizzie, this is a really momentous moment, because what it means is, it's the transition of space travel and space exploration from the public sector to the private.

LIZZIE O'LEARY, CNN AVIATION AND REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And I think the comparison with Richard Branson is an apt one. You look at someone like Elon Musk, 40 years old, sort of billionaire, entrepreneur, engineer.

And this moment is incredibly historic, what they managed to do today was send their Dragon capsule -- and you see it there -- the robotic arm of the International Space Station grabbed it. In the words of the astronaut Don Pettit, who did it, said "We have a Dragon by the tail." It felt like maybe he was anticipating the chance to say that line.

It has been berthed with the International Space Station, and then they will probably tomorrow open the door to let this -- sort of unloading of cargo, a half ton of cargo begin. There's no one in that capsule right now, but certainly an historic moment.

There were a few technical glitches, but Elon Musk sort of took a victory lap in the press conference. I'm going to play you what he had to say.


ELON MUSK, FOUNDER AND CEO, SPACEX: This really is, I think, going to be recognized as a -- significantly historical step forward in space travel. So -- and hopefully the first of many to come. I think this is a fantastic thing, but there's going to be even better things in the future, and we're super, super excited for what's happened and what will happen.


O'LEARY: His company has a $1.6 billion contract with NASA for these flights. They've got one down, 11 to go. There are other companies working on this since the Shuttle program went away, trying to essentially replace the ferrying options up to the International Space Station. But SpaceX is the first to get there, Nina.

DOS SANTOS: Yes, it's amazing, isn't it? And what's really interesting is that this may end up compartmentalizing the industry. So, he may be doing the satellite arm of things, but there's plenty of room for commercial flights, right? Is that the future?

O'LEARY: That seems to be the future, and that's exactly the kind of segmenting that Richard Branson was talking about, different companies trying to go after different portions of this market. Part to do the straight-up cargo flights, part to do the exploratory and space tourism aspects of this.

And even still in the public sector, when you look at NASA in the US, they want to be able to focus their resources on deeper space flight, on Mars exploration. So, it really is starting to look like a market with multiple segments in it and multiple commercial companies operating things that, until now, have been the providence of government.

DOS SANTOS: Right. So, not so much the final frontier, but the future frontier. Lizzie O'Leary joining us there from Washington. Many thanks for that.

Up next, too big to fail and possibly to big to bail. We'll take a look at why Spain's money troubles are everybody's problem.


DOS SANTOS: Hello and welcome back. I'm Nina Dos Santos. These are the main news headlines this hour.

The vote count continues in Egypt, and final results from the first round of the presidential elections are expected by Tuesday. The Muslim Brotherhood predicts that its candidate, Mohamed Morsy, will probably face the former prime minister, Ahmed Shafik, in a run-off that could be held in June.

International nuclear inspectors say that they've found traces of uranium at an Iranian nuclear site enriched to 27 percent. That's 7 percent more than Iran has admitted to in the past. The announcement comes just a day after international talks over Iran's nuclear program ended in Baghdad. Media reports say that Iran claims that the 27 percent resulted from a technical error.

The French president Francois Hollande has delivered a message to Afghanistan's president and French troops, namely, French forces are going home. Mr. Hollande spent Friday in Kabul reaffirming his pledge to bring home some 2,000 French soldiers by the end of this very year. That's two years earlier than the NATO timeline.

Some news just into us at CNN this hour. Bankia, the Spanish financial institution, has confirmed that it's requesting 19 billion euros from the Spanish government. That equates to about $23.75 billion. The Spanish bank is already part nationalized, and it's been in bailout negotiations for much of this afternoon. It was downgraded earlier today by Standard and Poor's, and Bankia came into difficulty earlier this year because of its exposure to bad housing debt in Spain.

The unmanned SpaceX Dragon capsule is now securely bolted to the International Space Station. It made the tricky high-speed rendezvous earlier on Saturday, becoming the first-ever privately-built spacecraft to visit the space station. SpaceX hopes eventually to conduct manned missions for NASA.

As we were just hearing, Bankia is seeking around about $24 billion from the Spanish government. Analysts say that the total cost of bailing out Spain's banks could be around about $125 billion.

In terms of percentage of GDP, that would be almost twice the size of the entire United States bank bailout at the height of the financial crisis. (Inaudible) the Spanish bond yields rising yet again, finding that kind of money won't be easy, as you'd imagine. Emily Reuben found out why Spain might be the biggest of Europe's problems yet.


EMILY REUBEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It used to be a powerhouse in Europe, the fourth largest economy in the Eurozone. But now Spain is in trouble. A banking system in crisis, an economy contracting and with unemployment above 20 percent, growing popular unrest (ph).

Here is where it began, a huge property boom funded by Spain's once- successful banking industry, collapsed in 2008. The homes lie empty, the banks are saddled with the unpaid debt and the government is struggling to plug the gap.

JOE RUNDLE, HEAD OF TRADING, ETX CAPITAL: Greece is a relatively small part of the (inaudible) and it could afford to be bailed out if they needed to. Spain is too big to fail, too big to bail. So the Spanish banks are huge institutions and there is a lot of money tied up there.

REUBEN: And that's why they're so worried in London's financial district. Here at the Bank of England the same U.K. exposure to general Spanish debt is $83 billion. U.K. exposure to Spanish bank debt is $13 billion. That's 13 times more than U.K. exposure to Greek bank debt.

REUBEN (voice-over): It's a similar picture in America, where the Federal Reserve says exposure of U.S. banks to overall Spanish debt is $54 billion, compared to $6 billion for Greece.

VICKI PRYCE, ECONOMIST & FORMER U.K. GOVERNMENT ADVISER: Well, the one concern that everyone would have would be that some of the other banks are going to lose the money that is owed to them, if you like, through the Spanish banking system.

The second thing is that there will be contagion in the sense that everyone will start being worried about other banks that may also have difficulties and these haven't been recognized yet, and there will be more downgrades, I'm sure, across Europe.

REUBEN (voice-over): Spain's government is trying to shore up the banks. It's partly nationalized bank here which dominates the Madrid skyline and it's brought in independent auditors to assess the true extent of the bad property loans.

But Spain's economy is contracting by 1.6 percent this year, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Their borrowing costs are rising, too, and that's what's worrying the prime minister.

MARIANO RAJOY, SPANISH PRIME MINISTER (through translator): One thing is of primary importance, that the public debt isn't sustainable and we have a problem.

REUBEN (voice-over): The IMF says Spain will have to raise more than $276 billion this year. If it can't raise it for the markets, it will have to turn to its European neighbors, and no one's quite sure what their answer will be -- Emily Reuben, CNN, London.


DOS SANTOS: Up next, the face of Formula 1 says (inaudible) in an exclusive interview Bernie Ecclestone tells CNN that the Facebook fiasco has rattled nerves.



DOS SANTOS: Time now for the answer to today's "Currency Conundrum". Earlier on this show we asked you which of these is the world's most expensive coin, and the answer to this interesting question is A, the Flowing Hair Silver Dollar, one of the coins minted back in 1974, sold for a record $7.85 million just a couple of years ago. The coin itself takes its name from the Lady Liberty's flowing hairstyle.

(Inaudible) Bernie Ecclestone has told CNN that the terms have been agreed for a new deal. Well, their current so-called Concord agreement finishes at the end of this season and there's been various reports of discontent and a possible breakaway by some constructors (ph). When he spoke to our very own Amanda Davies, well, Ecclestone said that everyone will sign another contract.


BERNIE ECCLESTONE, CEO, FORMULA ONE MANAGEMENT: Well, we've just got people now to (inaudible) current teams to sign up through 2020 and then hope another 10 years after that, and then forever.

AMANDA DAVIES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So is that you saying that their Concord agreement has been signed, everybody's agreed?

ECCLESTONE: Everything -- everybody's agreed with (inaudible).

DAVIES: Including the (inaudible)?

ECCLESTONE: You'll have to wait to see (inaudible). I'm confident that everything at Mercedes (ph) will be fine.

DAVIES: Why was it that you were offering Red Bull Ferrari McLaren a seat on the board and not Mercedes?

ECCLESTONE: So this is embarrassing, really, to answer, but the whole (inaudible) system was based on results and history.

DAVIES: But Mercedes does have a lot of history in Formula 1, back to the Silver Arrows and the Plangio (ph) and --

ECCLESTONE: We didn't go back to the `50s, which if we had have done, we (inaudible) had to include Ferrari then. Now I appreciate and say this and support Mercedes, probably more than anyone. They do a fantastic job for Formula 1 and can't say we wouldn't have been where we are if they hadn't have been there. But probably would have been. They've done a good, good job (inaudible). But the way the whole thing was constructed was on results and we couldn't falsify the results, because if we did, other people would complain.

DAVIES: There have been suggestions that Mercedes were threatening to pull out of the sport. Have those concerns gone away as far as you're concerned?

ECCLESTONE: Absolutely.

DAVIES: A lot has been made as well about this week about finances of Formula 1, CDC have sold a percentage of their shares. What was your reaction to that?


DAVIES: Your employers.

ECCLESTONE: Have done what?

DAVIES: Have sold 20 percent of their shares --

ECCLESTONE: Ah, yes, really?

DAVIES: Did you not know?

ECCLESTONE: Nothing to do with me. People sell their shares.

DAVIES: But in terms of what's coming up and the rotation (ph) on the stock exchange, that could have a bearing on your future in Formula 1.

ECCLESTONE: My personal future? We have to see what's going to happen with -- it hasn't been announced about the (inaudible) theory (ph) at the moment.

DAVIES: But is your understanding of it will?

ECCLESTONE: I mean, all that was ever been said, I think, Mr. McKenzie (ph) said that this would probably depend an awful lot on what the market is at the time. And the market doesn't look too bright after that bit of a problem with Facebook. So I think they're going to wait and see.


DOS SANTOS: Interesting stuff there. So from sunny skies in Monaco to stormy skies and even hurricanes in Mexico, let's go over to Jenny Harrison, who's standing by to tell us all at the CNN International Weather Center. Hi, there, (inaudible).

JENNY HARRISON, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, hi, Nina, not a great weekend ahead, as you say, for the people in the west of Mexico. This is why, Hurricane Bud, it is bearing down now on this west coast of Mexico. It's been sitting out there for the last few days, and of course getting ever closer, not moving particularly quickly in the next couple of days.

In fact, you can see here we've got the 40 at 24 hours, 48, 72. It's looking to make some very slow progress. The winds actually have dropped again, 129 kilometers an hour now, those sustained winds. So it is looking as if by the time it makes landfall, it will have weakened down a strong tropical storm. So that's got to be a good thing in terms of those damaging winds.

There are warnings in place, as you can see, and there are still a hurricane warning in place along the coast. That may well have changed, of course, if it becomes a tropical storm. But (inaudible) system does make landfall most likely some time on Saturday, it will lose a lot of its strength very, very quickly, particularly the winds. They're going to die away pretty rapidly.

But the rain, of course, a bit of a different ballgame there. It's because it is going to continue to produce these heavy rains. Of course, the closer it gets to shore, it'll begin to bring the rains and then it will have to literally come on shore and actually fizzle out before the rains also die away with it.

So the accumulations in some areas, we could be seeing around 150 millimeters, you can see there. But all the way along the coast, some very high waves, of course, the dangerous conditions along the sea there, and also this could well lead to some localized landslides and mudslides. So we'll keep a very close eye on the progress of this storm.

We're also watching in the Atlantic. This system has got a high chance of developing into a tropical storm, about a 70 percent chance according to the National Hurricane Center. So we're just going to keep a very close eye on this. It's certainly, for the time being, moving away from land.

Meanwhile, in Europe, well, the last few hours, you can see this cloud here. That has been bringing some rain showers up to Monaco, and of course, the Grand Prix will take place this weekend. But when it comes to the heat, that really is still across northern and northwestern areas of Europe.

These are the temperatures this Friday, 27 in Oslo, 10 degrees above the average. It's 26 Celsius right now in Glasgow and in Oslo. So again, in both cases, temperatures well above the average. And it'll stay pretty warm as we go through the weekend across the northwest.

One or two showers likely to push in and it's that system which could bring the rain showers to the south coast of France. So some showers this Friday, Saturday again a bit of mixed in and Sunday the actual Grand Prix race, cloudy day, about a 40 percent chance of some showers, temperatures at best about 21 degrees Celsius. So we will see how that affects the race, Nina.

DOS SANTOS: We certainly will. Jenny Harrison, as always, have a great weekend and many thanks for that.

Now it may not be at the top of everyone's wish list for the next holiday, but Myanmar is fast becoming one of the world's hottest tourist destinations. Businesses are making the most of the country's progression tours democracy following years of military rule. And as Paula Hancocks now reports, it's attracting a different sort of tourist.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This (inaudible) Buddhists, the fabric of Myanmar society revolves around its hundreds of thousands of monks. Not necessarily where you'd expect to see an American Christian. But 23-year-old Kym Cole says she's here for a spiritual vacation.

KYM COLE, SPIRITUAL TOURIST: One of the things that drew me to Myanmar was this notion of a country that was lost in time and that was removed from westernization and globalization. And it was very important for me to experience that before the infiltration of tourism would rapidly alter that.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): Ten hours of meditation a day at the Mahasi Center helps clear her mind, she says, although it's not easy.

COLE: I've had a lot of difficulty keeping focused.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): Cole is one of an increasing number of tourists, spiritual and sightseeing, flooding to Myanmar since it started to open up, unwilling to visit when the military was in control just a year and a half ago.

COLE: I wasn't very worried about the military government and kind of where my money was being used and how it was being spent. And its minor presence here would be support that government.

HANCOCKS: Americans don't have to travel this far to learn these meditation techniques. The Mahasi Center has already opened branches in New York, in Los Angeles and a number of other major U.S. cities. In fact, around the world, they already have more than 50 branches.

ASAIN VELURIYA, MAHASI MEDITATION CENTER: Personal meditation is not only for Buddhists, but also for everyone. By practicing meditation, we can become a happy person. We can create a happy life, a meaningful life.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): But for Cole, part of that experience is being in Myanmar in what she calls a completely different world. With more tourists coming every year, she's not alone -- Paula Hancocks, CNN, Yangon, Myanmar.


DOS SANTOS: And that's it for this edition of QUEST MEANS BUSINESS. Thanks ever so much for joining me. I'm Nina dos Santos. "MARKETPLACE AFRICA" is next. (Inaudible).




ROBYN CURNOW, CNN HOST: You're watching MARKETPLACE AFRICA. I'm Robyn Curnow. We're in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Now Ethiopia is one of Africa's fastest growing economies. You can see all the new buildings, the construction behind me.

But despite that, the cost of power is still a huge expense for many Ethiopians, across the continent, in fact, it's intermittent, haphazard, sometimes nonexistent. Electricity is a luxury for many Africans. But here in Ethiopia, that might be about to change. The country is building a large hydroelectric dam on the Blue Nile.

Now it's also not without its controversy. Sudan and Egypt say it's a threat to their water supply and there's still questions about how Ethiopia will fund (inaudible).


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The waters of the Blue Nile. For millennia, this river has flowed down from the Ethiopian highlands, enriching the countries along its banks downstream. Now the Ethiopians say it's their turn.

SEMEGNEW UEKELE: After completion of this project, the whole area beyond the mountain will be covered with water.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): The Grand Renaissance Dam Project was announced last year by the Ethiopian government in a unilateral move that isn't sitting very well with its upstream neighbors, Egypt and Sudan, who say Ethiopia is threatening their greatest natural resource.

What's undisputed, though, is the sheer size of this undertaking.

FRANCESCO VERDI, PROJECT DIRECTOR: This is the bridge that we are building in order to cross over the Nile.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): Francesco Verdi works for the Italian construction firm building the dam. If they manage to stay on schedule, in six years' time, Ethiopia says it will be able to generate enough electricity to power the entire region.

VERDI: This is one of the largest dam in the world. We have started the excavation of the main dam. We started also some excavation in the southern (ph) dam but we are still in the mobilization (ph) stage.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): (Inaudible) is in charge of overseeing this mammoth project as he looks out over the river valley he seems undaunted by the undertaking looming before him. Uekele has worked on three other dams in Ethiopia, but this will be his first attempt at damming the Blue Nile.

UEKELE: Hydropower is a backbone for any country's sustainable development. For this Nile River originates from our country and flows without giving any benefit to us. Now we are able just to utilize or use this river.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): It might be a source of national pride for Ethiopia, but for Egypt and Sudan, this project is deeply contentious. Egypt with its population time bomb is particularly worried. Nearly 85 percent of its water originates in Ethiopia. Egyptians say they will not be held hostage over water.

YACOB ARSANO, PH.D., ADDIS ABABA UNIVERSITY: Sudan is a short (ph) they are concerned. I think that there is a (inaudible) for that is that building a dam in Ethiopia and putting up such a huge project on the water that goes down to Sudan, they would think that water will be controlled by Ethiopia.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): If Ethiopia denies this is an issue. Further upstream, these machines, they say, will help them monitor the flow. Ethiopia's prime minister, Meles Zenawi, has dismissed these concerns and warned against what he calls dam extremists. And while he might, this dam project could potentially transform Ethiopia's economy.

HENOCK ASSEFA, ECONOMIST: Hydropower is the cheapest electricity you can generate anywhere. So Ethiopia has huge advantages for that and Ethiopia will export enough power to make a difference in the economy. The Ethiopian government is issuing bonds and we're all buying bonds in order to chip in on this huge national project.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): But will that be enough? Some economists believe Ethiopia has only raised 10 percent of the project's total cost and there are worrying reports the civil servants are being forced to contribute one month's salary, an accusation the government denies.

Even more worrying, international rivers, an organization working against destructive riverside projects, says that Ethiopian journalist Rias Alimo (ph) has been jailed for daring to criticize the government's centerpiece project. Ethiopian authorities say Alimo (ph) is on trial over terror charges.

What is not up for debate is how determined Ethiopia is to fulfill its aspiration as the battery of East Africa. And construction these days is not limited to the dam site. All over Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital, new buildings are rising.

According to the African Development Bank, Ethiopia's economy last year grew by 7.5 percent. And although inflation also rose to 31.5 percent, the country has successfully grown its average income by 50 percent over the past decade.

The International Monetary Fund is ringing alarm bells, though. Given this region's history of drought, the IMF is recommending the government avoid dependency on hydropower as an engine of growth. As they dig into ancient bedrock for their futuristic dam, it seems Ethiopians believe this is a risk worth taking -- Nima Elbagir, CNN, Nairobi.


CURNOW: Now China has experienced funding big infrastructure projects here in Africa. After the break, I speak to the head of the Chinese Investment Corporation to get the Chinese perspective of doing business in Africa.



CURNOW: What does China want from Africa? What lessons has China learned from working on the continent? Much has been said about China's buying power and our next guest has very deep pockets. He gives us now a frank assessment of doing business in Africa.

CURNOW: Let's talk about numbers. Let's talk about money. How much do you have to play with?

GAO XIQING, PRESIDENT, CHINA INVESTMENT CORPORATION: Well, on the book we have now $490 billion but the part of money that we have invested abroad internationally is about $190.

CURNOW: Out of that, how much is invested in Africa?

GAO: So far, not a lot. Quite a few hundred million dollars. Proportionally it's not enough and we have been looking at that for many countries, opportunities. And I have sent many of our teams looking around. So far it's been a challenge because this market is very fragmented.

CURNOW: There's this perception, perhaps wrongly, perhaps not, that China, Chinese business in coming into Africa is sort of gobbling everything up.

GAO: First of all, I understand the reason why people are thinking that way, because you go around (inaudible) many African countries, everywhere I go, I see Chinese companies going around, both state-owned enterprises and private enterprises. But secondly, it's not true that if you actually looking at a sort of a accusation that a Chinese is coming up and gobbling up everything.

But you know, many people refer to the natural resources and mining, minerals that (inaudible). And I actually looked at it and in fact, most of the best and the richest mines, the natural resources are all taken by Western companies. And we have (inaudible) by now (inaudible) the Chinese companies have probably less than 5 percent.

CURNOW: It's very fashionable at the moment, in a way, to talk about Africa as a new frontier, as a continent of opportunities. Is that -- is that correct?

GAO: I think Africa is definitely on the rise, and in many ways, when you go to many countries, they are -- the situation there is just reminiscent of China 20-30 years ago. So when I look at it, you know, for instance, I walk around in Addis and do you see the kind of stark contrast of (inaudible), the buildings with the unpaved road.

If China can take off that fast then they can do it as well. And in fact, in many countries, they're showing that. So I don't think it's overblown. It's just a matter of time. And you know, a matter of determination of these countries.

CURNOW: There's a perception that Chinese companies particularly mining companies bring in labor, deny Africans jobs. What for you is critical about that?

GAO: They, you know, people complain that, OK, the Chinese company's coming in here and start a infrastructure project or real estate (ph) project and they want -- how come they don't hire enough local people? I'm very conscious of that because I, myself, I started out as a construction worker on the railway, construction for three years when I was 16.

And had very heavy labor and I loved to work at these sites and talk to people. And I said, you know, many of the laborers, you really don't need to have people from China. You just -- you can hire people from local. And they say yes, we have already tried to do that, but sometimes, you know, because they have many constraints.

They -- overall, budget (inaudible) construction and that budget (inaudible) comes down from the government and they say, OK, you have to do it within, say, $100 million, right. And then that time, they say, OK, you have to do it before October, 1st of October this year, otherwise, you know, the very back.

So sometimes you have to say, well, because the Chinese workers will, you know, they have very different work ethics and very different work habits. Very often, you just get those people, they work for 12 hours, 18 hours. They don't complain. (Inaudible) on the railway construction site. So that's where we have to make a balance.


CURNOW: An interesting and important perspective from Beijing.

Well, that's it for me, Robyn Curnow, from the bustling streets of Addis Ababa. Remember, you can always catch us online at See you again next week.