May 13th, 2010
05:16 PM GMT
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Thousands of travelers are to be impacted because of a strike by British Airways cabin crew that the union says will last for 23 days between May 18 and June 9.

Are you affected by a BA strike?
Are you affected by a BA strike?

But it's not only passengers that are bracing themselves for travel chaos - so is the airline.

BA has made arrangements to stave off the worst effects of this strike, hiring additional aircraft that have its own cabin crew and has even bought seats on 50 other airlines to keep passengers from making alternate plans.

The first set of strike dates will be between May 18 – 22, followed by May 24 – 28, May 30 – June 3 and finally June 5 – 9.

For the first five days, BA claims it will be able to operate 60 per cent of long-haul flights and more than 50 per cent short-haul on flights operating to and from Heathrow

London's Gatwick Airport and London City Airport will not be affected by the strike

Passengers booked on flights that have been canceled by the strike will be offered seats on flights with BA or other airlines, or will be offered a full refund, the airline said.

Have you changed your travel plans?

Are you being affected by the strike? Have you already had to make changes? Are BA being co-operative with making alternative arrangements?

Please leave your comments below or tweet me at @AyeshaCNN.



May 13th, 2010
03:29 PM GMT
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He is a prince wearing many hats, all essential to Dubai’s past development and its current economic debt restructuring.

Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum runs Dubai’s airline, its airports and oversees its Supreme Fiscal Committee - all at the same time. In an interview in Emirate’s Airlines rotating stand at the Arab Travel Market we talked about issues right across the sectors he oversees.

Investors in Dubai are eager to come to agreement on Dubai’s $23 billion dollar restructuring. This is not a simple task with nearly 100 banks involved and grumblings from local creditor institutions which don’t feel they are getting a fair shake from the Emirate.

Sheikh Ahmed talked about getting an agreement sealed in the next two to three weeks and was quite direct when he said that he thought the current deal was “always a generous proposal for everybody.” In a remark pointed at the local creditors, he said: “They have to think long-term about being here in Dubai.” It does not take a rocket scientist to read between the lines.

From insights from our interview together, data emerging from independent researchers and in discussions with others on the ground, one can ascertain that a floor is being put below what has been a nasty six months.

First some facts: Colliers International noted that property prices rose two percent in the first quarter of the year. The real estate group expressed some caution in its report, noting that a surge of completions will re-introduce downward pressure on prices by the close of the year.

We shot our TV programme links in Dubai Marina where demand is picking up again, but one can see plenty of empty flats and more to come with construction revving up again. At the close of 2009, the marina area was silent as cranes sat idle during the height of the credit crunch.

During our interview, Sheikh Ahmed did not hide the fact real estate will be slow to recover. He talked about investors re-adjusting their expectations and that 2005-06 are more accurate barometers for the future than 2007 at the height of the frenzy.

When asked what was the key lesson learned during the past six months as Chairman of the Dubai Supreme Fiscal Committee, Sheikh Ahmed said defining the Emirate’s core businesses: trade/export services, tourism and financial services.

Not by accident I am sure, he left out the property sector and nodded in agreement when asked if speculators were no longer welcomed.

Other data streaming in points to a Dubai recovery, although probably not as robust as Sheikh Ahmed predicted when he said five percent growth in the medium term was conservative. Cargo traffic was up 28 percent in the first quarter and passenger traffic was not far behind at 20 percent. Retail sales are also solid, illustrating that residents and tourists are not cash strapped and are expressing confidence about the future.

Dubai - and the region as a whole for that matter - has found out the hard way that it is not operating in isolation. The Emirate generated the ill winds of financial misdeeds last autumn and spread that fear East and West. Today, rebuilding has begun in earnest, but the EU-Greek tragedy is onto its third act and reaching beyond the borders of the newest members Bulgaria and Romania. While this may be an over-reaction on Wall Street, in Cairo and in Dubai, this will translate into more tenuous times ahead just as many hoped the recovery was taking hold in earnest.

We also cannot overlook the fact that Dubai still has another $55 billion in debt that needs to be addressed over the next year and a half. That is why Sheikh Ahmed, while sounding optimistic, was also eager to drawn a line in the sand with domestic creditors.



May 12th, 2010
04:14 PM GMT
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Next month, the biggest sporting tournament to ever take place in Africa begins. The football World Cup is 30 days away and many South Africans across the country are excited.

However, there is also the sinking realization that this World Cup is not going to be as big and as lucrative as many initially hoped.

Disappointment is already setting in for those small business owners who had hoped to cash in on the tournament. Lots of ‘mom and pop’ establishments, such as small town bed and breakfast accommodation and local restaurants, had hoped they would make a mint from the hundreds of thousands of fans who were expected to descend on the ten host cities during the month-long tournament.

The numbers of foreign fans are being dramatically revised – only one hundred or two hundred thousand visitors are expected. That is half the number of visitors many here thought would come during June and July.

So the owners of smaller establishments on the outskirts of towns – many of which have spent precious savings upgrading buildings or adding extensions – say they are faced with the prospect of missing out on the benefits of hosting the World Cup.

Cape Town Tourism says that bookings for accommodation just outside the city and in the suburbs are way below expectations, although hotels in the city center and near the stadium are full. The same trend appears to hold true for the rest of the country.

There are many reasons for this outlook – the most important is the current global economic situation. Many football fans just don’t have the money to travel to a long-haul destination for two or three weeks. The last World Cup in Germany was a different type of destination, say the analysts, because a French, Italian or English fan could just jump on a train or book a cheap flight to watch a match. South Africa 2010 is a serious financial commitment for even the most dedicated football fan.

There is also the argument – put forward by many here – that the initial expectations of nearly half a million visitors was totally unrealistic. Some have even suggested that many South Africans were being greedy or short-sighted to expect the World Cup to be a financial windfall.

Either way, the number of people traveling here could decrease even more in the next month because of two potential problems. The ash cloud from the Icelandic volcano could paralyze travel out of Europe again. Also, British Airways staff have voted to go on strike on June 5th – just a few days before the opening game on June 11.

But there is also the happy realization that visitor numbers are entirely dependent on the vagaries of football. It all boils down to the final whistle at key matches. So, the tourist tally could be based on who makes the final stages. If England, for example, makes it to the final then South African hosts with empty beds will be wringing their hands in glee as they prepare themselves for last-minute bookings from die-hard football fans who will travel across the world to see their team. No matter what the cost.



May 11th, 2010
01:20 PM GMT
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London, England - No matter who you think should be blamed for the spill in the Gulf, there is no point commentators making the point that the "B" comes from the word "British."

“The British Petroleum Company” was the official name of the oil giant from 1954 (born years before from the purchase by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company of the subsidiary called "British Petroleum" of a German oil company) until 1998.

But its focus after it was founded in 1909 was Persia (Iran) and Libya, before it lost both operations during the 1970s (nationalization.)

"BP" was just one brand in the portfolio for decades.

While the UK government owned a stake, and it has been listed on the London Stock Exchange, selling fuel to British consumers was only a part of its business.

It then became a big exploration player off the coast of Scotland and in Alaska.

BP transformed into a big American company with the purchase of SOHIO in 1987 (Standard Oil of Ohio,) its 1998 merger with AMOCO (once John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil of Indiana) and then its purchase of ARCO (once Atlantic Petroleum Company and then Atlantic Richfield Company.)

The company was known as BP AMOCO until 2000, when it was finally shortened to just plain old BP.

To me, it’s just like Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing is just 3M and International Business Machines is just IBM and parts of the old American Telephone and Telegraph is just AT&T. The old British Aerospace (BAE Systems) is so big in the USA defense industry now that using the "British" would be nonsense.

Sure, BP will have to think long and hard about its recent branding campaign to say BP means "Beyond Petroleum" (it also once said it stood for "better people, better products and big picture.")  Some blogs are now suggesting of course “Big Polluter.”

It is an oil and gas giant and certainly, has not moved beyond petroleum, so it should not shy away from calling itself an energy firm.

But it has also moved well beyond its tenuous British roots.

Or it could call itself “British Anglo-Persia Standard Castrol Atlantic Petroleum,” or BAPSCAP.

Any other suggestions?

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Filed under: BusinessEnergyenvironment


May 11th, 2010
04:56 AM GMT
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May 10th, 2010
01:11 PM GMT
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Europe's finance ministers approved in an emergency meeting a "stabilization mechanism" that could provide at least 440 billion euros (US $560 billion) for a crisis aid package aimed at ensuring financial stability across Europe.

Will the EU's crisis fund ensure financial stability across Europe?

On Sunday, the International Monetary Fund approved a 30 billion euro ($38.6 billion) loan for Greece as part of a larger European Union-led effort to help ease the country's economic crisis.

The three-year deal makes about 5.5 billion euros (US $7 billion) immediately available to Greece's battered economy, the IMF said in a statement announcing the loan.

The emergency measure comes just a week after stock markets experienced heavy losses and as large scale protests plagued the Greek capital of Athens.

Financial markets across Europe and Asia surged while the euro strengthened against the dollar Monday, hours after Europe's finance ministers approved the package.

By mid-morning trading, the Paris CAC 40 was up by nearly 7 percent, London's FTSE 100 edged above 5 percent, while the Frankfurt DAX was ahead by 4.67 percent. In Asia, Tokyo's Nikkei index closed up 1.6 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng advanced to 2.54 percent by the close of play.

The euro soared above $1.30 from $1.2755 on Friday.

We want to know what you think.

Do you think the EU resuce package will do enough to help save countries like Greece, Spain and Portugal? Is the rescue package big enough?

Filed under: BusinessQuest Means Business


May 7th, 2010
03:39 AM GMT
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“Hectic and confused.”

That’s how trader Tsutomu Yamada at kabu.com Securities Co. describes the morning session in Tokyo. Traders were still trying to understand what exactly happened on Wall Street, explained Yamada. The confusion over Wall Street’s plunge and concerns over a weakening euro drove the Nikkei down nearly four percent, ending the morning session down 3.74%. Exporters took the hardest hits, beginning with Nintendo dropping 11 percent on news its profits would decline more than expected.

Nikkei slide continues global sell-off

The sell off wasn’t limited to Japan: Look across the Asia Pacific region and the markets are down across the board.

Concerned, the Bank of Japan injected two trillion yen (US$20 billion) in short term lending Friday morning. A spokesperson with Japan’s central bank says “the aim is to increase a sense of security in the markets by providing ample funds.” Read here: Calm the market’s jittery nerves.

Yoshito Sengoku, Japan’s Minister in Charge of National Policy spoke to reporters Friday morning in Tokyo, saying that the Greece crisis will have a “limited impact on Asian economies.”

But Kirby Daley, senior strategist at Newedge Group in Hong Kong, believes that the market reaction to the Greece crisis is not a limited, knee-jerk reaction. “The drops will not likely be as violent as post-Lehman, but risk aversion is setting in for the long-term, as markets over-celebrated unsustainable stimulus. We may see some relief rallies, but the overall trend should now be firmly down for stocks,” said Daley.

Afternoon trading has begun again in Tokyo. Traders have had 90 minutes during the lunch break to catch their breaths here in Japan after the morning session. Fingers crossed, they say.

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Filed under: AsiaBusinessInvestment


May 5th, 2010
09:26 AM GMT
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May 4th, 2010
02:23 AM GMT
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May 3rd, 2010
03:43 PM GMT
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Berlin, Germany - Opinion polls in Germany show most people there don’t want their country to give bailout money to Greece. But people we spoke to in Berlin seemed to have a more realistic view.

Did think she Germany should help Greece, I asked a young woman. "No," was her short and forceful answer.

Did she think her government would help Greece, I then asked. "Yes," she said just as forcefully.

When asked why, she simply said: "Because we have to."

That seems to be the feeling among many Germans. They don’t want their government to back billions of dollars in loans to Greece, but they know there is no other choice.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel should find some comfort in opinions like the one above. With an important May 9election scheduled in Germany's most populated state, Northrhein-Westfalia, political rivals and other observers have accused Merkel of trying to sit it out and postpone a decision on the Greek aid package until after the vote.

Merkel herself denies this. And if it was her intention to wait it out, it backfired, bringing her even more criticism both in Germany and abroad.

"Aid to Greece cannot be automatic," Merkel said shortly after Athens announced it had asked the EU and the IMF to set its bailout in motion last week. Some experts believe the perceived reluctance of the German government further weakened Greece and also possibly affected the credit ratings of Spain and Portugal, both of which were downgraded by the agency Standard and Poor's.

The situation became so dramatic that the head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, visited Berlin last Wednesday to urge Merkel and her government to get a move on.

"We must understand that time is of the essence," Strauss-Kahn said, and noted that the stability of the entire euro zone was in jeopardy.

Meanwhile, the opposition Social Democrats and Green party accused the Merkel government of dragging its feet and putting short term political concerns ahead of Europe’s and Germany’s fundamental interest of keeping the euro alive and stable.

Looking at the situation now it appears as though Merkel’s gamble didn’t pay off. Polls in Northrhein-Westfalia point to massive losses of the governing coalition of Merkel’s Christian Democrats and the Liberal Democratic party, although some believe there are other reasons as well, as the Christian Democratic governor of the state faces allegations of campaign finance irregularities.

In a press conference in Berlin on Monday, Merkel justified her government's handling of the situation, saying that, "giving Greece a blank check," would have made the situation even worse.

In the end the voters will judge her handling of the crisis, possibly as early as May 9.



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