Quest Means Business
January 29, 2010
Posted: 1935 GMT

As the great Davos conflab nears its end I can honestly say it’s been a fantastic experience - despite what a group of jaded journalists led me to believe on the train ride from Zurich.

While I've watched some impressive guests including Bill Clinton, Bill Gates and Jacob Zuma, it’s the more offbeat aspects of the week that stick most in my mind.

On entering the airport-style security checkpoint on my first day, I witnessed an engineer attempting to fit a set of TV flood lights into the X-ray scanner at the request of a stern-looking policeman. A CNN colleague later told me she was asked to send four freshly-baked pizzas through the same scanner as she returned on a lunch run.

Not really sure what kind of security risk hot chillies provide.

Once inside the fortified congress center I was ushered down to the basement where CNN's "work area" was located. The musty, green-colored room almost had me running back towards the glamorous ski resort I arrived at.

To make matters worse, the local fire brigade was called on my final day here to help stem the tide of waste water from the nearby toilet seeping into our bunker.

But that’s life in the field.

In between filing stories I decided I would also "tweet" during my time here. Perhaps it was the lack of oxygen in the bunker but I quickly became obsessed with what "celebrities" at Davos were tweeting.

It may be no surprise that Twitter's young co-founder was using his own service. But I was still interested to learn what preoccupied Evan Williams during a debate about the future of social media with fellow Silicon Valley bigwigs. Between questions he tweeted: "About to do my Davos panel in jeans and tennies. @unitedairlines says we might see our luggage tomorrow."

I thought the "geek chic" look was intentional.

In any event you’ll be glad to know Evan was reunited with his luggage the following day.

I also learned the glamorous Queen Rania of Jordan was diligently keeping her followers in the loop about her trip. "Scarf: check. Gloves: check. Warmest coat: check. Secret hand warmers: check. I’m ready for the World Economic Forum at Davos," she tweeted shortly after arriving.

Bill Gates was also a prolific tweeter… And so my obsession went on.

I'm not sure exactly how much rethinking, redesigning and rebuilding was done at Davos this year, but I would certainly endorse its value as a spectacle.

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January 28, 2010
Posted: 1846 GMT

Davos, Switzerland (CNN) – Day two of the World Economic Forum in Davos and the issues being talked about in the hallways are truly global. The number one talking point remains the need for new regulation and the new definition of capitalism. Bankers continue their fight against harsh new regulations – Bob Diamond told CNN, “I think it’s really important that the U.S. tries to integrate as closely as they can with the G-20 initiatives, particularly around capital, around leverage and around liquidity.” While John Mack of Morgan Stanley bemoaned the fact there wasn’t a proper forum for government and banks to come together to sort out a solution.

But also the shift of power towards Asia is high on the agenda. The prospective next Chinese prime minister is here – and I assure you every word he says is analysed, dissected and followed with much interest no doubt by the prime minister and finance minister of Greece. In true Davos fashion I have now been able to hobnob with some pretty big players.

The prime minister of Greece had a moment to chat about the financial crises hitting his country. I interviewed the CEO of Pepsico, Indira Nooyi. Like other great thinkers she is determined that there needs to be a sea change in the way CEOs regard their companies and stakeholders (and in her case, she is also pushing hard for Pepsico to introduce more healthy chips, drinks and snacks.)

Ms. Nooyi did have one caution to offer – she reminded me that some of the issues had been on the Davos agenda over many years. It was time to deal with them and move on. Quite.

Tune in to CNN International each evening at 1900 GMT (or your local time) to watch Richard Quest on ‘Quest Means Business’.

For more information on Davos please visit www.cnn.com/davos

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Posted: 1156 GMT

Davos, Switzerland (CNN) – The runners are off… Davos has begun. The agenda is clear: how to do things differently in the future, especially when it comes to the banks.

The discussion has been galvanized by U.S. President Barack Obama’s proposals to split the big Wall Street firms and ban proprietary trading. Stephen Green, chairman of HSBC, told me reform of the banks is needed but cautions against doing it in haste. And he doesn’t like Obama’s proposals for banning prop trading by banks, which he says is unworkable.

There are big thoughts being raised here today. Ben Verwaayen the CEO of telecom company Alcatel-Lucent is promoting cohesive capitalism. He explained that companies need to set policies around a much bigger agenda than earnings per share. "I'm talking about issues... whether that's health, whether that's climate change, whether it has to do with the cohesion of society because of diversity. And companies need to contribute."  This is true Davosian thinking.

Verwaayen knows stating the principle is part of the process at Davos. Tom Glocer, the CEO of Thomson Reuters - a seasoned Davos hand - knows, "Ideas are generated independently. They begin to be socialized. They are essentially repeating what they’ve heard in the corridors here. The idea picks up traction."

In the cold winter of Switzerland there is, as always, hot debate of these issues and these conversations will eventually lead to change.

Tune in to CNN International each evening at 1900 GMT (or your local time) to watch Richard Quest on ‘Quest Means Business’.

For more information on Davos please visit www.cnn.com/davos

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Posted: 1036 GMT

Davos, Switzerland (CNN) – As the serious business of rethinking, redesigning and rebuilding the world’s battered economy got started at Davos, I found myself wandering into a debate about how social media is changing the world.

LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman

Everyone that’s anyone in this rarefied world was there, including MySpace chief Owen Van Natta, LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman and Twitter co-founder Evan Williams.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg was represented by his sister, Randi.

It’s standing room only in the ridiculously small conference suite deep in the fortified congress center, such is the interest in what these new kings of Silicon Valley have to say.

See CNN's full Davos coverage

The idea is that each panelist gives his or her view on the most interesting issues in social networking, from privacy to how it’s being used as a newsgathering tool. The discussion is also going out live on the Internet - at one stage Zuckerberg reveals almost 6,000 questions have been filed by Facebook users within minutes.

Williams, in his jeans and hooded top, seems to be tweeting between questions, while Hoffman comes out with one of the most provocative statements when he calls privacy an “old person’s” issue that young people aren’t interested in.

Tell that to the huge number of bloggers that complained when Facebook altered their privacy settings recently. Interestingly, Zuckerberg isn’t keen to discuss privacy as she hides behind her laptop.

Don Tapscott, a veteran tech writer, chimed in about Facebook profiles being open to scrutiny by potential employers. “Someone could miss out on that job due to content in their Facebook account that doesn’t necessarily represent their true character.”

An interesting point. Are you worried about where your personal information is going? Let us know below.

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January 26, 2010
Posted: 1527 GMT

Davos, Switzerland (CNN) – The fire is out. It is time to build the new house. That is the underlying theme of Davos 2010, or more elegantly expressed in Davosian-speak as Rebuild, Redesign and Rethink. The founder of Davos Klaus Schwab defines these three Rs as rethinking values, redesigning financial systems and rebuilding institutions.

Of course this is much easier said than done. Last year few sat around and hesitated over preventing financial Armageddon. Now there are plenty of arguments about what should come next. Lots of these different agendas will be up for debate at the World Economic Forum.

Klaus Schwab admitted in his interview with me, “everybody will try to push his own interests.” I guess there is nothing wrong with that. However, to build something that will withstand the next financial hurricane, it is essential that it has strength and depth. Everyone needs to guard against weak plans simply because they are acceptable to all. That is not rebuilding, redesigning and rethinking; it is a recipe for ruin.

Tune in to CNN International each evening at 1900 GMT (or your local time) to watch Richard Quest on ‘Quest Means Business’.

For more information on Davos please visit www.cnn.com/davos

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Posted: 1321 GMT
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Posted: 1249 GMT

Davos, Switzerland (CNN) - Arriving in the Swiss Alps for my first taste of the annual Davos talkshop I felt like a boy on his first day of school as I filed awkwardly off the train behind a party of “conference veterans” from a British-based press agency.

CNN Davos hub

CNN technician Darran Eubanks in the CNN bunker

These weary vets had come to my attention during the stunning journey up from Zurich as I was snapping away at the procession of picture-postcard views. My artistic reverie was suddenly interrupted by a bored-sounding voice lamenting the need to “do Davos again.”

I thought perhaps this bored journalist had endured one fondue experience too many.

As a Davos “virgin,” I failed to see how a gathering of some of the world’s most influential people from the world of politics and business, from Nicolas Sarkozy to Bill Gates, could be anything but exciting – well thought-provoking at least.

Ignoring further comments about the World Economic Forum being a ski holiday for many of the 2,500 delegates, I headed for the CNN bunker - located deep inside the impressively fortified congress center – certain this year’s event would yield some positive stories after the gloom of the past two years.

After all the theme this year was all about the three “R's" - the need to “rethink, redesign [and] rebuild” the world.

See CNN's full Davos coverage

As I waited to put my bag through an airport-style x-ray machine, I chatted with a Swiss-based journalist about what she hopes to get out of the next few days. “I hope we’ll see some evidence that politicians and business leaders are actually back in control after the turmoil of last year,” she said. “But if nothing else it’s good for local businesses.”

And with that I moved on past several machine-gun toting guards and rows of satellite trucks belonging to the world’s media, before I finally entered the convention center itself and yet another checkpoint manned by suited guards this time.

With VIPs including Sarkozy due in town, this was something I would have to get used to. It soon emerged that the security guards have fun with the media by constantly changing the routes in and out of this maze-like facility.

I just hope the delegates appreciate Davos is serious business these days.

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Posted: 1217 GMT

The UK Q4 GDP figures announced this morning were a shocker. However, the British economy scraped its way from recession in Q4 by its dirty finger nails. The median forecast of a 0.4 percent gain in GDP by the majority of renowned economists were rubbished and the official figure of 0.1 percent increase is a massive set back.

I wondered why Lord Mandelson was so guarded about the recovery, reiterating that it was so brittle. The services sector underperformed. It expanded by just 0.1 percent and not the 0.5 or 0.6 percent rise suggested by the business surveys.

With household incomes under pressure, credit in short supply and a major fiscal squeeze looming, the path to a full recovery is going to be a long and tortuous.  I am in the minority that believes that GDP will grow by just 1 percent in 2010. Talk of an exit of quantitative easing, despite opinion to the contrary, is not only precipitous, but also folly in the current circumstances.

The auto sector did well thanks to a stimulus program, which may be fully utilised before too long.

Going forward, this recovery may well be achieved with high unemployment. Last month’s retail sales rise of 0.3 percent was disappointing. Going forward we’re all skint with taxation likely to increase and with less disposable income finding its way to the shopping malls.  Retail is so important!

Perhaps Messrs Brown, Darling, Myners et all will desist from larruping the banks too much, whilst the economy is in such a parlous state. That does not presuppose that radical regulation is not a prerequisite ,as well as some taxation over a protracted period of time  to ensure the taxpayer is repaid in full. The bonus culture is being altered. Few disagree with that philosophy.

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January 25, 2010
Posted: 1720 GMT
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Posted: 1054 GMT

Davos, Switzerland (CNN) – This is the standard question the world’s elite ask each other in the first weeks of the New Year. Will I see you at the World Economic Forum? For some the answer may very well be “not sure”, “maybe”, or even “probably not.” The CEOs of Sony, Facebook and Burger King won’t be here. Steve Forbes is staying away. And President Barosso of the EU has decided to give it a miss too. But don’t think for a moment Davos is over and done with. The bankers will be out in force.

Facing swingeing reform from President Obama and with more governments deciding how to impose punitive levies, banks like Citigroup, Barclays and Morgan Stanley are sending top executives. They will no doubt be cautious not to be seen living the good life at a luxury Swiss mountain resort. The consultants will be meeting clients to cement relations and many CEOs will be eyeing up counterparts warily and pondering whether they should be doing a deal.

Davos will always have a unique role to play in the international calendar and this year is no different.

See CNN's full Davos coverage

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January 22, 2010
Posted: 1744 GMT
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January 20, 2010
Posted: 2212 GMT
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