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No Deal on Fiscal Cliff; US Stocks Selling Off; Super Yacht Seized; Greek Bonds Return 80 Percent; European Markets Up; Investing in 2013; Italian Prime Minister Resigns; Austerity Cuts May Bury Archaeological Finds; Dollar Rising; 2013 Cost of 12 Days of Christmas

Aired December 21, 2012 - 14:00   ET


RICHARD QUEST, HOST: Acrimony, disagreement, and a deadline. The US draws ever closer to the dreaded fiscal cliff.

In Italy, the budget is agreed and the prime minister, Mario Monti, resigns.

And if you're a female driver, your premiums could be about to soar. The EU applies equal rights to insurance from today.

I'm Richard Quest. It may be Friday, but of course I mean business.

Good evening. It may not be the end of the world today. It's certainly the end of Plan B for the fiscal cliff. The US Congress is heading home for a Christmas without even a backup plan to fix the fiscal cliff.

The House speaker, John Boehner, has denied he's walking away from talks with only 11 days to go before there needs to be a budget deal if the US isn't going to go over the cliff. His short-term fix failed last night before it even reached a vote. Members of his own party refused to back up. It's a huge political embarrassment for the speaker. He told reporters it was not an attack on his leadership.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: And while we may have not been able to get the votes last night to avert 99.81 percent of the tax increases, I don't think -- they weren't taking that out on me. They were dealing with the perception that somebody might accuse them of raising taxes. Merry Christmas, everyone. Thank you.


QUEST: Merry Christmas, indeed. Bah humbug. Jessica Yellin is with us from the White House. Now, look, Jessica, we've got a lot of ground to cover here. First and foremost -- where do we stand? It's getting ever more likely a deal won't be done, and even if ever so short period of time, the US could go over the cliff.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That is true. Let me cut to the most likely positive scenario. The president could go out of town, because Congress is going out of town, so let's expect official Washington leaves for Christmas, comes back right after Christmas.

The president and Congress -- Democrats in Congress -- could negotiate some sort of short-term deal that avoids going over the fiscal cliff. It would pass -- this is the positive scenario, where things work out -- it would pass the Senate quickly with majority of Democrats supporting it.

Then they kick it back over to the House of Representatives, where a majority of Democrats would have to support this measure, and they'd have to arm-wrestle a few Republicans to also support it, and that would be a squeaker of a negotiation and get something done just before New Year's Eve.

Everybody goes away right before the ball drops on New Year's, and then you come back in the new year to negotiate some sort of far-reaching deal. That's the whew! Nick of time we got something done --

QUEST: Right.

YELLIN: -- best-case scenario.

QUEST: But what does it say about the political scenario, both for the speaker and his Republican caucus, that the worst -- I mean the best- case scenario is that either the Democrats have to corral some Republicans onboard, or the Republicans have to -- corral some Democrats onboard. The parts -- the parties fundamentally are far apart.

YELLIN: Well, yes, the parties are deeply far apart. Speaker Boehner does not have control of his caucus. The president is not able to provide enough cover for speaker Boehner to get what he needs from his caucus. It's a mess. There's no other way to look at it.

What they are hoping here at the White House is that the new Congress that comes in next year will be able to do more than the current Congress. But the prospects for that are not too great. The best anybody can hope for is some sort of short-term agreement, and then pray that people come to their senses in the new year.

QUEST: Right. Jessica Yellin --


YELLIN: It's not -- it's not good.

QUEST: No, well, far from that. I like to see that we agree on that. Jessica, I probably won't speak to you before the festive season, so I wish you a good one --

YELLIN: Thank you.

QUEST: -- with you and your family, and thank you for joining us. And I rather fear that you've got your work cut out for you over Christmas. Jessica Yellin's at the White House. Allison Kosik is watching over matters on the stock exchange. Now things get interesting, because now investors --


QUEST: -- are giving their reaction.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and their reaction is displeasure. Just look at the board, look at all the red, the Dow down 132 points. Investors, Richard, they're showing their displeasure with Washington, with how these lawmakers are pretty much playing chicken with the US economy.

This non-vote, it basically erased all the optimism that we saw here on Wall Street earlier in the week. We saw the Dow with those back-to-back triple-digit gains. So, now with the worry that time is ticking, sort of the five seconds left of the football game with no time outs --

QUEST: Right.

KOSIK: -- the big worry is that we could go over the cliff just as the economy is --


QUEST: And -- I -- OK --

KOSIK: -- getting its footing.

QUEST: I need to interrupt you, because I -- we've got to focus down quite -- and drill down quite harshly on this. Judging by what Jessica Yellin just said, if the short-term fix is put in place just after the US goes over the cliff, is it the gut feeling from the market that they can hold their nerve if they know a short-term fix is coming?

KOSIK: They'll pretty much hold their nose for a while. If you don't see anything happen, the trend is definitely down. If there's a short-term fix, you may see some stabilization.

But eventually reality is going to set in again. The negotiations would pick up after the new year about getting a longer-term deal, and if those longer-term solutions don't look like they're getting anywhere, you're going to see the market fall again.

So, really, you would wind up seeing a market that's really watching and moving on every single headline to come out about the fiscal cliff, just as it's doing now, Richard.

QUEST: We don't have a program, no QUEST MEANS BUSINESS on Christmas Eve, on Monday, so you and I will not be able to join in our usual rendition of "Wait 'Til the Sun Shines, Nellie." But we will before New Year.

KOSIK: That's too bad.

QUEST: So, get your words and your lyrics ready and we'll have a rendition.

KOSIK: I will, I will get them ready just for you.

QUEST: Alison, have a lovely Christmas. Have a good festive season, whatever you may be celebrating this time of year.

KOSIK: Thanks. You, too.

QUEST: It's a bit of a tradition on the Stock Exchange, they sing "Wait 'Til the Sun Shines, Nellie." We'll explain next week why they do it.


QUEST: A super yacht that was built for Apple's late co-founder, Steve Jobs, has been impounded in Amsterdam because of a dispute over an unpaid bill. Lawyers for the yacht designer, Philip Stark, says he's only received two-thirds of his $12 million commission.

That's the yacht. Super, indeed. The lawyers say the $130 million boat -- yacht, please -- will remain in Amsterdam until the rest of the money is paid.

Coming up after the break, the year's top investments and a look at where some bankers think you should look for next year's profits. QUEST MEANS BUSINESS.


QUEST: If you bought Greek bonds in January, you've certainly been popping the corks of champagne and celebrating. They've earned 20 times more this year than Germany's bonds. Join me in the very profitable library. Excuse me.

Now, according to Bloomberg and Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- look at that number. There's been an 80 percent return on Greek bonds. You compare that to the 3.7 percent on the German bond and the Spanish bond's at 6.1.

Now, of course, the reason that so much -- this is the first time since 2009 that investors made money on Greek securities. Of course, we know the reason why. You go into the year with Greece possibly heading for default and bankruptcy. If you held your nerve, even after the restructuring, the way the market rallied in the last few weeks, that's the sort of return that you're getting.

Not surprisingly, the leading hedge fund Third Point, headed by the US billionaire Dan Loeb, they sold most of their billion-dollar bond position in the Greek bond buyback.

Now, even allowing for the heavily-discounted -- heavily-discounted -- bond price that the Greek government repaid, because they bought them at such a cheap price earlier in the year, $500 million profit. It's one of the few funds to have profited from the eurozone crisis.

Look at the markets as we come to the end. I urge you not to take too much notice of them. This is over the week. The FTSE, the DAX, the CAC, and the SMI, very small -- you can obviously understand with the festive season being upon us, a bit of volatility, small volume, and that's the sort of results.

Now, in its investment outlook, HSBC's private bank predicts an economic recovery in 2013 that will benefit global investors. As for this year, Philip Poole, head of asset strategy at HSBC told me it's been, well, rocky, to say the least.


PHILIP POOLE, HEAD OF STRATEGY, HSBC ASSET MANAGEMENT: It was a tough year. It was a roller coaster ride, really, for investors. We had a fantastic first quarter, and then the growth concerns came back. Then we had the ECB taking some of that tail risk away.

So, yes, a lot of ups and downs. But in reality, in fact, for most investors, if they'd held their positions going into the year, they would have made very good money. Some of these markets are up by more than 20 percent.

QUEST: It's very difficult to hold your nerve.

POOLE: The reality is that there's been a muddling-through process, we've got to the end of the year without the world falling apart, and looking at the valuations going into 2013, some of these markets actually look quite cheap.

QUEST: What should we be looking at in 2013? As we go in, what -- forget the bit that's gone. Look to the future.

POOLE: OK, first of all, we think that core government bonds, treasuries, guilds, bonds, JGBs look expensive on fundamentals. We think yields are actually going to go higher in 2013. We like corporate debt.

QUEST: And in equities. That's -- how long is a piece of string? Small equities, big equities, global equities. Which markets?

POOLE: OK, we like the markets where the cycle is turning more favorably and where the valuations are cheap. Markets like China, for example, Russia in the emerging markets as well. Some of the European stocks, in fact, that play emerging markets themes are good value.

QUEST: Really what you're saying is, going back to those investment scenarios that we saw a few years ago. Those -- the Chinas, the Russias, the Brazils, the emerging markets. Yes, they wobbled a bit in 12, but you're really saying they are still the fundamental game.

POOLE: Yes, the fundamental game is certainly there, that's true. The developed world's going to struggle to grow. The emerging economies, I think the growth rates may be lower, but they'll still be much higher than the developed world. And as I say, the valuations look attractive.

QUEST: Currencies. It's a hard one. You really do need nerves of steel if you've going to put currencies in your portfolio.

POOLE: Well, currency diversification, I think again over the longer- term, pays off. We see again the emerging currencies appreciating over -- on average over the developed world currencies in the course of the next five, ten years. So, that makes sense.

Calling euro-dollar, calling euro-sterling very difficult. But I think the yen will be weaker in the course of 2013.

QUEST: What should a half-decent portfolio look to make in 2013?

POOLE: If you're making mid-to-high single-digit returns, you're doing OK. It's not going to be an easy year. I think you could lose money on your bond portfolio, core government bongs, because as I said, valuations look stretched. There'll be volatility on the equity side.

But if you look at long-term returns, somewhere made real returns of 6, 7 percent is really what people should be aiming for. So, I think in this type of environment, that would be a good result.


QUEST: We'll be following those numbers and checking in during the course of the year, 6 to 10 percent. If you can get that, good for you.

The Italian prime minister, Mario Monti, has resigned. MPs passed the 2013 budget, drawn up by his government, 309 in favor, 55 against.

The resignation is effective immediately, and afterwards, he's promised -- Monti's technocrat government lost the support of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's party this month. He's overseen recover in Italy's bond and reputation. The austerity agenda was not popular with Italians. It's unclear whether he'll take part in next year's election.

Individuals aren't the only ones feeling the pain of austerity. Some of the world's historic sites are also suffering, as Ben Wedeman reports from the Italian capital in Rome.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Rome, dig and you're likely to find something very old. For the past six years, archaeologists have been working on this site north of the city.

It was here that Marcus Nonius Macrinus, a Roman general, was buried. He was the inspiration in part for the character played by Russell Crowe in the movie "Gladiator." Crowe's character fought to keep the barbarians at bay on the empire's frontiers and in the arena.

But more than 1,500 years ago, Rome fell to the barbarians. And today, in this age of eurozone austerity, the stunning remains of that great empire and the artifacts at this site, know as the Gladiator's Tomb, are under threat from what some might say are barbarians of another kind: cost-cutting accountants and budget-slashing bureaucrats.

WEDEMAN (on camera): In the last two years, the budget to maintain Italy's archaeological sites has been cut by at least 20 percent. As a result, some sites have been closed and projects canceled. Now, don't worry, the Coliseum will remain open, but some ancient treasures may literally be buried.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Daniela Rossi worked for several years at the Gladiator's Tomb and says if funds aren't soon found to maintain the site, it will be recovered with dirt. "The most logical thing to do is to bury it again," she says. "It will be up to our grandchildren to decide whether that will be temporary or permanent.

Russell Crowe has joined the fight to keep the site open, telling an Italian newspaper Italy must be a leader in preserving ancient heritage. An online petition, called "Save the Gladiator's Tomb," has been started by American archaeologist Darius Arya to raise funds and put pressure on the authorities to keep the site open.

DARIUS ARYA, AMERICAN INSTITUTE FOR ROMAN CULTURE: This is part of the bigger picture, which is, Italy is a great country. Italy is a leader in cultural heritage preservation. They do great work in Italy, and their experts go around the world. Here's a chance to say with this site, we're going to take a stand, and we're going to defend this cultural heritage.

WEDEMAN: If not, the barbarians will see to it that it's covered up once again.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Rome.


QUEST: Now, a festive Currency Conundrum for you. St. Nicholas, of course, was the model of today's Santa Claus. What was St. Nick's monetary motto? A, sell what you own and give it to the poor? B, save, save save? C, spend and be merry? We'll have the answer for you later in the program.

The only thing you need to know about the rates themselves: the dollar is rising. Those are the rates --


QUEST: -- now for the break.



QUEST: Ah, it must be that time of the year. Christmas is in the air, shopping days are disappearing, and your true love is in need of gifts. Each year, PNC bank calculates the Christmas Index, the true cost of the "12 Days of Christmas."

Now, we know that the total cost is up some 4 percent. Partridges, for example, in the pear tree --

(MUSIC -- "Five golden rings" verse of "THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS")

QUEST: -- up 10 percent for those. As for the others, just look and see. Gold rings, they're up 16.3 percent, rising gold prices have taken their toll. And as for those geese a-laying, 29 -- a 30 percent rise in the cost --

(MUSIC -- "Five golden rings" verse of "THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS")

QUEST: It's a cost of feed, you understand. Then you have seven swans a-swimming, to say nothing of all those maids a-milking and the other stuff that you've got involved, like the 12 drummers drumming.

Now, how much would it cost if you bought the "12 Days of Christmas"? The answer:

(MUSIC -- "Five golden rings" verse of "THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS")

QUEST: $25,000. If you bought the whole lot, because some of them are repeated. You buy each one one and again. Well, that's a huge number. It comes to $107,000.

Now, over the years, incidentally, if you bought it online, it would cost you even more money because of the cost of shipping and handling.

(MUSIC -- "Five golden rings" verse of "THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS")

QUEST: And for those of you that worry about Christmas becoming more expensive, absolutely. Look at over the years. The cost of Christmas just keeps getting more expensive. So, when everyone tells you that save a bit of money at Christmas, you can say quite clearly, it's not going to happen, certainly if you're buying the "12 Days of Christmas."

We'll be back after the break.

(MUSIC -- "Five golden rings" verse of "THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS")


QUEST: Hello, I'm Richard Quest. There's more QUEST MEANS BUSINESS in just a moment. This is CNN, and on this network, the news will always come first.

And we're hearing reports the South Sudanese armed forces is admitting it has shot down a United Nations helicopter. A military spokesman is calling the incident in eastern South Sudan an accident. The UN says the aircraft was carrying four crew members, and their fate is not clear.


QUEST: Across the United States, people have been pausing to pay tribute to the victims of last week's school shooting. A 20-year-old gunmen killed 27 people, most of them children, before taking his own life.

Two protesters from the social justice organization Code Pink interrupted a news statement being given by the National Rifle Association, the NRA, in Washington earlier today. It was the first real public statement by the NRA since last Friday's shooting.

Barack Obama has nominated Senator John Kerry to be his next US secretary of state after Hillary Clinton. The president said the senator is his perfect choice to replace Hillary Clinton. UN ambassador Susan Rice withdrew from consideration last week.

The Italian prime minister, Mario Monti, has resigned. Mr. Monti made the announcement immediately after MPs passed his 2013 budget. It's still unclear whether he'll take part in next year's election.

The actor Hugh Grant has settled with News International over hacking claims. The actor was one of the victims of illegal practice, which led to the closure of the "News of the World" newspaper last year. Hugh Grant will donate the money to the Hacked-Off Campaign for Press Reform.



QUEST: European insurance has gone unisex. From today, European insurance are banned from setting their prices based on gender. A fact sheet from the European Commission gives a few examples of how that could affect some of you.

Let's take, for example, John and Mary. They're both 18 and they drive -- (inaudible) same type of car. John pays around 11/2 thousand dollars a month; Mary pays around $1,100 and -- well, you can see the numbers on the screen behind you.

Under these new rules, they'll both pay the same price somewhere in the middle, good for John, bad for Mary. If you take a look at Mark and Karen, now they look strikingly similar to John and Mary. They both have no health problems and they don't smoke.

Mark pays 13,000 euros a year; Karen pays 15,000 for the same benefit. Under the rules, they'll pay the same. That's good for Karen, it's bad for Mark.

You starting to get an idea that this is not only complicated, but it turns the -- it turns the insurance world upside down and some would say makes little sense, bearing in mind insurance is always based on risk.

Lisa McPherson is the CEO of Ladybird Insurance, which is aimed at female drivers.

We're getting to what's going to happen next. On a simple, pure insurance actuarial (ph) risk basis, this makes absolutely no sense.

LISA MCPHERSON, CEO, LADYBIRD INSURANCE: Absolutely. It -- I mean, it's sad, really, because the females are going to end up paying more.

QUEST: Well, and relative to females paying more, as an insurance issue, this flies in the face that he or she who's most at risk pays the most.

MCPHERSON: Yes. I mean, I think insurance is discriminatory in every way, actually. And, of course, females traditionally have driven better, yet their price is going to be hiked up to about 25-35 percent despite the fact that their actuaries haven't got data to support (inaudible) that they will be better drivers.

QUEST: But this is because -- isn't it -- women were getting lower rates per generum (ph), just because they are women regardless because of - - the numbers show that they're even safer drivers.

MCPHERSON: Yes, but I think statistics actually show they are safer drivers. They have --

QUEST: Yes, but --

MCPHERSON: -- fewer claims and that has led to having lower premiums. What's happened now is boys and girls or young females and males are going to have the same premiums. So girls will end up paying more.

QUEST: Until, of course, the insurance companies can actually break down --


QUEST: -- I mean, you know, you may both pay the -- you may be paying more at the beginning, but as you go on a bit and you have no claims and all these sort of -- then it will sort itself out.

MCPHERSON: Yes. I think it's under the (inaudible) 25-year olds are going to be suffering with these increases.

QUEST: Right.

MCPHERSON: But we've got a solution.

QUEST: Which is?

MCPHERSON: Which is telematics (ph). So you get a little device fitted in your car. So rather than it be a broad brush, you look at how -- look male or female, cheaper price or not, this is about actually looking at how they drive. It's based on their behavior.

QUEST: This is a black box for your car.


QUEST: What's to stop this black box being, you know, when the wife drives it, does it register her driving?

MCPHERSON: No, it doesn't, but it's about that vehicle's insurer for more than one driver than it's a about how they drive. But with the younger drivers, you're obviously paying more, so it's for their insurance.

QUEST: Right. But what I'm saying is can the box distinguish who's driving the car?

MCPHERSON: Not (inaudible).

QUEST: Yes. So really, it's just for the car.

MCPHERSON: It is for the car.

QUEST: And if it's --

MCPHERSON: (Inaudible) I'm pretty sure it's going to change. They're going to get little key fobs that will change it. It's in the early stages at the moment, we're in the early development. It's only been around for the last sort of year to two years.

QUEST: (Inaudible) and what you're hearing, how annoyed are women about this?

MCPHERSON: I think they're very annoyed. In fact, yesterday was one of our busiest days because we have so many (inaudible) last couple of weeks, we have so many girls, young females, getting on the phone and insuring their cars before today. So they are very annoyed.

They're going to pay more and it, you know, isn't really fair on them.

QUEST: Today the deadline was. So have you actually, from today, been having to charge them more?

MCPHERSON: Yes, absolutely.

QUEST: On average how much more?

MCPHERSON: 25-30 percent more.

QUEST: Come back next year and talk more about this . This is fascinating stuff.

Thank you very -- thank you very much indeed. I appreciate it. Thank you.

Now, all right, this could top the U.K.'s single chart this Christmas.


MUHAMMAD SHAHID NAZIR, FISHMONGER AND SINGER: Come on, ladies; come on, ladies. One pound fish, come on ladies, come on ladies, one pound fish.

QUEST (voice-over): If you don't know what I mean, you're not spending enough time on the tube. It's an extraordinary tale of the power of social media. I will explain and probably ruin your evening after the break.

NAZIR: One pound fish. Six four five four one four eight, six four five four one four eight, come on, ladies --




QUEST (voice-over): The answer to the Christmas "Conundrum," what was the monetary motto of St. Nicholas, the model for our modern-day Santa? The answer is born into a wealthy family, St. Nicholas was raised a devout Christian who gave his entire inheritance to the sick (inaudible).


QUEST: Now before the break, I was showing you an example of John and Mary, and I gave you a variety of numbers that you can see. Of course, I misspoke. That is an annual premium, not a monthly premium. But the sharp amongst you spotted my little infelicitation of style.

On Sunday, a market stall trader from East London could be the Christmas number one with this rather unseasonal capitalist carol.


NAZIR: Come on, ladies; come on, ladies. One pound fish, come on ladies, come on ladies, one pound fish.

QUEST (voice-over): His name is Muhammad Shahid Nazir. Since arriving from Pakistan eight months ago, he managed to swap his market stall for the recording studio in a deal with Warner Music.


QUEST: And this is what it's all about, the one-pound fish. And this is the one-pound fish man.

How did you ever start singing about fish?

NAZIR: Basically I started this year before eight months, so my firstly my owner said, Shahid, you have (inaudible) the customers. So I think the shout is a not good job. So it's a good (inaudible) song. The next day I met myself (inaudible), come on ladies, come on ladies, one pound fish.

You can see the first impression is the last impression. Everyone said on the spot your song is so catchy, you should go "X Factor."

QUEST: Are you still selling fish?

NAZIR: Yes, I'm still selling fish because I can (inaudible) everything but I can't forgot my one pound fish, going market, at quality fish stone (ph), because a one-pound fish changed my whole life. After "One Pound Fish," life is (inaudible).



QUEST (voice-over): Do you think -- and this is all new to you.



QUEST: Do you think that we and everybody else is mad because we all like this song, "One Pound Fish"?

NAZIR: No. The people love fish and people love the "One Pound Fish" song. People are intelligent because they love it. Not -- and especially U.K. and even in all the world from America, (inaudible), Australia, (inaudible). The song is becoming famous now in America, Canada, Germany and France as well.

And I'm going to Germany (inaudible) America to release this.

QUEST: I think we need to hear it. Have you got some other song you're ready for, by the way?

NAZIR: Yes. I'll sing them all, songs.

QUEST: Right. You'll sing some more.

He's not a one-fish song. He's got more songs. He's got halibut and cod and maybe a bit of mackerel, too.

Let's hear your song.

NAZIR: About fish?

QUEST: About fish.


Come on, ladies; come on, ladies. One pound fish, come on ladies, come on ladies, one pound fish.

Come and have a look, one pound fish, have a, have a look, one pound fish. Very, very good, one pound fish, very, very cheap, one pound fish. Six four five pound one pound eight, Six four five pound one pound eight, come on, ladies, come on, one pound fish. Come on, ladies, come on, one pound fish. Fish (inaudible).


QUEST: (Inaudible).


QUEST: I make no apology if that's on your brain.

"Gangnam Style" has hit 1 billion hits on YouTube. It's a record. Have a listen. Here's another bit to ruin your day.


QUEST (voice-over): Between "One Pound Fish" and "Gangnam Style" (inaudible), (inaudible) temperatures and appalling traveling conditions across Europe and the United States.

Karen Maginnis, though, is going to warm up with (inaudible) information.

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, let's hope so. But I can't do anything about the rain, because it is going to be very prevalent, all across United Kingdom and into Ireland, as this next band of rainfall moves on shore.

Heaviest right around Land's End also into the West Midlands and eventually making its way up towards Scotland. But just about everybody receiving some wet weather, fairly widespread in the next 48 hours. You can see the heaviest will be right around Bristol, also Exeter and Cardiff as well as into Dorset and Somerset and then into the Scottish Highlands.

You're expecting on the order of about 5 to possibly 10 centimeters of rainfall. The ground is already saturated. And as a result, there have been flood alerts as well as flood warnings, 66 flood warnings issued across the United Kingdom, 266 alerts.

So here it comes, as you can see on our enhanced satellite imagery, but all across the continent, we've seen this big swing as far as temperatures, wet weather and the cold air that is just thoroughly entrenched across central Europe and into eastern sections of Europe.

All right. For the travelers, if you're going by air, London, both airports will be affected with lengthy delays. And look at the snow expected across Germany. Yes, bitterly cold temperatures, delays running up to an hour, Frankfurt, Munich, also into Berlin.

Brussels is also looking at reduced visibility. In the next 48 hours, we move from Germany over towards Riga and then to Vilnius and we'll also expect for the Italian Alps to see significant snowfall there. This has been quite the season as far as the cold air is concerned.

Take a look at this, going into the weekend, the bitterly cold air still continues with double-digit temperatures below average. Back to you.

QUEST: We thank you for that, Karen Maginnis, the snow is falling in large parts of the world and it is also falling as you can see, behind me.

And there you and I must leave it for this side of the festive season. That's QUEST MEANS BUSINESS. I'm Richard Quest. Thank you for joining us. Whatever you're celebrating at this festive seasons, whatever festival it may be, wherever in the world you are, I know and hope it's profitable.




ROBYN CURNOW, CNN HOST: Millions of people across Africa have one of these. But people don't just use mobile phones to send text messages or to make phone calls. You're watching MARKETPLACE AFRICA. I'm Robyn Curnow in Johannesburg. And for this week's show, we're going to go across the continent to find out how mobile phones are being used in innovative ways.


IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is what the problem of harassment looks like in Egypt. Each dot, each number is a story. I'm Ian Lee in Cairo, where mobile phones are on the frontline in the battle against harassment and one of the leaders, Rebecca Chiao.

Rebecca, tell me how big of a problem is harassment in Egypt?

REBECCA CHIAO, FOUNDER, HARASSWAY: Our first problem is there's no data. We have one report that was made in 2008 that says that 83 percent of the women who they surveyed admitted to being harassed. However, that's just one study. So we can't say today how bad the problem really is. And that's one of the things that we're trying to do with harassment.

LEE: Show me how someone would report a case of harassment on a cell phone.

CHIAO: You dial 6-0-6-9, and then you type in what happened and where. Then we send and then in a minute or so, you should get an auto- response.

It tells them how to access services. So a lot of the women's NGOs in Egypt offer services like free legal help, how to make a police report, psychological counseling, self-defense classes . So we took this opportunity to send an outgoing message to everyone who sends a report, telling them how to access these services.



VLADIMIR DUTHIERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Although most people don't have access to the Internet in Nigeria, everybody has access to a mobile phone. Google has figured out a way to get around that, by allowing people to get their Gmail on their mobile devices using the SMS service.

Hey, Juliet.

JULIET: Hi, Vladimir.

DUTHIERS: How are you?

JULIET: I'm good, thank you.

DUTHIERS: Sounds like a fascinating service. Tell me about it.

JULIET: Sure. So Gmail SMS is a new feature for Gmail users that makes it possible for them to get their emails as SMS messages using any type of phone and even without a data connection.

DUTHIERS: And so if I'm using my telephone, and I don't have access to a wireless Internet connection, I can still get my emails on these devices.

JULIET: Yes, as SMS.

DUTHIERS: That's fascinating. And what will I see? Will I see the entire email or what?

JULIET: So when an email arrives at your inbox, it gets forwarded to your SMS and it includes a snippet from the email. So you can reply from your SMS or you can type M for more to read -- to get more of the text from the email.

With (inaudible) increase in the number of users getting online, but it's still a small percentage of the population.

However, mobile penetration on the other hand is very high, about 70 percent. And so Gmail SMS provides a bridge between the offline and the online world and makes it possible for the wide range of mobile phone users out there to be able to interact with emails.



ERROL BARNETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Two babies like these are being born all the time here in Uganda, but 58 percent of births in this country take place far from hospitals in more rural areas. Now those births have to be registered through a quite tedious and archaic paper-based system, which is a bit of a logistical nightmare.

So the Ugandan government in partnership with UNICEF have developed a mobile vital records system. Essentially, it allows mothers here to register their babies' births via text message.

Terra (ph), how big is the registration problem here and how are you tackling it?

TERRA (PH): So it's a real challenge because in Uganda, only about one-third of children are actually registered at birth and even fewer get their birth registration certificates. And so what we've done to tackle the problem is working with government created this app, mobile app.

And with a simple text message, a child can be registered and immediately their information goes into the central government database, which means that mothers in rural areas, mothers in urban areas, doesn't matter, can go register their child.

And instead of writing it down on paper and the paper perhaps getting lost or filed for a long period of time, immediately their child is registered. And then when they come back for their immunizations, they can get their birth certificate printed out for them right away.

BARNETT: Now this is a pilot system, so how successful has it been so far? Who has access to it now?

TERRA (PH): It's been very successful. We've actually rolled it out in 11 districts so far. And the demand is growing rapidly. In fact, when we go out to the communities during family health days, it is the most requested services that communities want.

BARNETT: Really?

TERRA (PH): Yes. So we think that we're fulfilling both the demand side and the supply side with this particular application.

BARNETT: What are the biggest challenges, though, because there are many parts of this country that aren't even plugged into the electrical grid, let alone able to have mobile phones and recharge them.

TERRA (PH): I think the challenges revolve more around probably the printing of the birth certificates, because there you're relying on regular power and Internet access. We are supplying districts with computers and with printers.

But that is a more -- more of a logistical challenge. But actually, at community level, all you need is a super simple, the most basic cell phone that exists and you send in via SMS.



ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're at the clinic in (inaudible) Tanzania. We want to talk a little bit today about technology and global health. The CEO of (inaudible) is here with me. Tell me a little bit about the new partnership you have with Vodafone and what kind of impact it could have.

SETH BERKLEY, CEO: Well, what's amazing, of course, is that we used to have phones here and people talked about how there weren't very many phones. And then this little tool came in. And now every household has not one but many of them.

And so the issue is how do we modernize the delivery of vaccines, getting mothers to clinics, making sure we follow up, taking advantage of this ubiquitous technology.

VERJEE: So you're holding up the phone. I have one, too, actually, here on me.

How does it work?

BERKLEY: Well, there are simple ways. So one is you can just SMS mothers. So if mothers aren't showing up at the time they need to for their children, you can go ahead and get them to come in. You also can send out messages, general messages, that are important for the population.

But what we're really excited about is how do you do supply management in the field. It's critical that all vaccines are kept in a cold chain all the way from the time they're produced until they get into the arm of the child. Of course, it's easy when you're shipping large amounts of those through trucks and airplanes. But it's getting it down to the local level and then storing those.

So using this type of technology, we can have an understanding of where the vaccines are, how the cold chain is being managed and make sure there's no stock outs or other problems


CURNOW: Now it's not just the small startups that are using these new technologies. After the break, I speak to the CEO of the world's most innovative (inaudible).




CURNOW: Now using your mobile phone to pay bills or to transfer money is estimated to become a $600 billion industry over the next four years. Mobile money is just one of the reasons South Africa's First National Bank was recently voted the world's most innovative bank. Here's their CEO, Michael Jordaan.


CURNOW: So First National Bank has just won the world's most innovative bank award. How and why?

MICHAEL JORDAAN, CEO, FIRST NATIONAL BANK: Well, it's an award in New York. About 150 banks participated. And from over 50 countries in the world.

And we, of course, very happy that a bank from South Africa and people think Africa's involved with innovation but a bank from South Africa could win it. And we think we won it for broad innovative culture and many, many ideas that are implemented every year.

CURNOW: Because, frankly, an innovative bank is a bit of an oxymoron for many people. Banks are not seen as sort of as a forefront of technology and innovation, really.

JORDAAN: We have a lot of things that we as banks have to do properly. We are, after all, custodians of people's money. That means you have to be a little bit boring and a little bit conservative.

But that doesn't mean that customer experience needs to be conservative and it doesn't mean that you can't adopt new technology. The world out there is changing so fast and we think it's a bigger risk to not change along with the world.

CURNOW: So how do you create that spark, that innovation across the whole company?

JORDAAN: One of the first things we did, which is very symbolic, is we awarded a prize of a million rands. That's about $150,000 to any employee who came up with a great idea and could implement it. And over the years, we've been able to create heroes and role models of people and (inaudible) over 1,400 ideas implemented by our staff.

And I think (inaudible) different styles of innovation and I'm by no means saying that the way we do it is the right way. But what worked for us is empowering people. We have 53,000 people working for FNB. And they know best about how they can improve something. I always say (inaudible), what do I know about how that form looks or how that process can be improved?

The people doing the job always have good ideas, all you have to do is liberate them and allow them to (inaudible) actually implementing improvements.

CURNOW: We're sitting in one of your new branches. It looks like a spaceship. It's very futuristic. So then the question is is this also the future of banking?

JORDAAN: Yes, many of our improvements have to do with technology, particularly things like mobile banking is a huge trend in Africa and in South Africa. We all (inaudible) leapfrog existing technologies.

CURNOW: And branches.

JORDAAN: And the branch for example is one way one of our staff members just said I'm going to create the proper branch that I think will be appropriate in 10 years' time.

So this is one where customers can come in and they can play around with a whole number of different devices.

And they can use technology that you couldn't use on paper, that you actually construct a perfect bank account with the right features, whether you want your statements email, whether you want mobile linking, banking linked to it. And so it's a completely different experience as to what people normally perceive they get in a bank branch.

CURNOW: It's all about engaging with technology. And why is that so important?

JORDAAN: Well, of course, technology changes everything. But nowhere more so than in banking. If you think about banking, it (inaudible) technology company with the people interface as well. And it's for that reason that we've adopted mobile technology and it's so big we've -- in particular, we've now become the biggest distributor of tablets in Africa.

And we've given to our customers at wholesale prices and finance it at 0 percent interest. You may ask why we do that. It's because we want people to start doing their banking on tablets. It's cheaper for us; it's more convenient for them. And this is part of a big revolution that's going to run over our continent.


CURNOW: Well, that was Michael Jordaan, the CEO of First National Bank.

Well, that's all from me, Robyn Curnow, here in Johannesburg. You'll see us again, same time, same place, next week. In the meantime, go online. We're at Goodbye.