July 11th, 2012
07:04 PM GMT
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Farnborough, England (CNN) – You know you’re dealing with a busy executive when you have to interview them on their toilet break.

I grabbed a brief chat with Virgin boss Richard Branson on the sidelines of the Farnborough International Air Show, but only after he first dragged me to the bathroom.

“Follow me,” said Branson, after I approached him. With that he was striding urgently across the auditorium where he had just announced a new satellite launching venture for his Virgin Galactic space company.

Seconds later, we were outside the toilets. “Excuse me for a moment,” he said, diving inside.

A few awkward minutes later, Branson was back, looking somewhat relieved, if tired from a schedule that saw him fly in from Mexico only hours before attending the air show.

“Sorry… I’m just exhausted,” he confessed, stumbling on his first answer. Then he recovered his composure to outline dreams for his fledgling space exploration company that include putting a hotel into orbit.

Interview over, Branson declined the customary handshake, instead offering his little finger to shake by way of apology. “I’ve got a bit of a cold,” he said. “You don’t want to catch it.”

So at least he spared me a second indignity.

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July 11th, 2012
04:06 PM GMT
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Editor’s note: Outlook is CNN's in-depth look at business climates around the world. To August 12, 2012, we’re focusing on Singapore.

Singapore (CNN ) – At less than 700 square kilometers and fewer than 6 million people, the city-state of Singapore may be one of Asia’s smallest countries, yet its economic influence far outstrips its size. Next week, CNN will be focusing on Singapore for a special week of coverage in this blog and on TV.

The country is a global hub for exports, a financial capital and an increasingly popular tourism destination. Its GDP per capita, nearly $50,000, is one of the world’s highest, on par with the most developed countries in Europe.

That’s quite an achievement for what was a poor, undeveloped British colony just 50 years ago. The per capita GDP in 1961 was just $1,136. Author Michael Schuman writes in his book “The Miracle,” that “Singapore’s transformation from down-and-out tropical outpost to vibrant metropolis of international stature is one of the great tales of the [Asian Economic] Miracle.”

July 11th, 2012
11:18 AM GMT
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Editor’s note: The Millennials are a generation that are constantly plugged in and moving fast to make their mark on the world. CNN’s Quest Means Business is tracking four of them.

London (CNN) – The Millennials meet two new faces from the streets of North London.

Sam Bompas and Harry Parr have style, substance and an entrepreneurial spirit. The two have known each other since childhood, and have been working together for more than five years.

These days, they are modern day Willy Wonkas - creating a business from jelly molds.

July 11th, 2012
06:23 AM GMT
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Despite slowing economic growth, China has more companies on Fortune's Global 500 list of the world's top firms than Asian rival Japan.

In its annual rankings released Tuesday, Fortune magazine lists 73 companies in China, second only to the United State’s 132. Japan is in third place with 68 companies in the top 500. FULL POST

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July 10th, 2012
04:12 PM GMT
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London (CNN) – Flicking through Barclays’ 286-page annual report, it’s impossible to avoid a grinning former CEO Bob Diamond – once branded "the unacceptable face of banking" - making a range of pronouncements, which in the wake of the Libor rate fixing scandal now sound profoundly hollow.

Take this old chestnut from Diamond, much touted since banks were caught on the back foot during the 2008 credit crunch: "Banks need to become better citizens."

Or listen to this snippet: "When we’re at our best, we serve the real economy by doing our best for all our stakeholders: our customers and clients, the communities we serve, our people and our shareholders."

July 9th, 2012
06:39 PM GMT
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London (CNN) – When the Deputy Governor of Bank of England, Paul Tucker, said in parliament Monday that the Bank (pictured above) has "no manual for Libor" I immediately thought its days are numbered.

Tucker was asked by a number of parliamentarians when the Bank did not know that private banks were manipulating what rate they were able to borrow money from each other from 2005-2008. Tucker made it clear the rate is set between banks and overseen by the British Banker's Association, not regulators.

Tucker said regulators want banks to announce interest rates based on actual transactions, not the rates 'offered' to each other (offered is the 'o' in Libor).

Then Tucker admitted, when the BoE pumped unprecedented amounts of money into the banks, in April of 2008, those involved would "not have dreamt" of using Libor as the base rate, if anyone involved knew Libor was a "cesspit."

Tucker says he did not know of the "cesspit" until a few weeks ago.  He is another of  the top bankers in London saying he did not know.

I am not questioning his honesty. In fact, he gave very direct answers to very direct questions.

The big questions were: Did politicians put pressure on the Bank of England to put pressure on Barclays to manipulate the quoted interest rate in Libor? No. Did Tucker tell Barclays it was best to lower its rates so the markets don't think Barclays was having troubled funding itself in the height of the economic crisis? No.

Bottom line: The government did not know. The Bank of England did not know. Former Barclays CEO Bob Diamond did not know. That is what parliamentarians are being told.

Now, on Tuesday the Chairman of Barclays, Marcus Agius, will give testimony. Lets see if he knew.

Someone had to know.

It is clear that part of the UK's attempt at cleaning up the banks will mean that one of the old fashioned self-regulated systems, like Libor, will go. It has to.

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July 6th, 2012
04:26 PM GMT
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Editor’s note: The Millennials are a generation that are constantly plugged in and moving fast to make their mark on the world. CNN’s Quest Means Business is tracking four of them.

London (CNN) – This week, we say goodbye to our London Millennial, Joe Braidwood.

We have seen his tenacious ambition, and had insight into his fears.

Joe tells CNN's Richard Quest why he feels so driven, and the cost of his achievements.

July 6th, 2012
09:19 AM GMT
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China gate-crashed the monetary policy party on Thursday.

Within a single hour, the Bank of England and the European Central Bank both made scheduled and much anticipated moves to pump more money into their financial systems. The unexpected guest was China. FULL POST

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July 5th, 2012
01:10 PM GMT
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Which cities can boast more than a dozen bagpipe factories? Edinburgh? Glasgow? How about, Sialkot, Pakistan?

Sialkot is located in north-east Pakistan, some 125 kilometers from the capital Lahore. Legend has it that the city started making bagpipes during the British Raj, when a Scottish businessman came to town and set up a factory.

More than a century later Sialkot is one of the world’s biggest manufacturers of bagpipes, with more than a dozen bagpipe factories, both big and small.


July 4th, 2012
12:53 PM GMT
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(CNN) – The room was filled with a certain buzz and not an empty seat could be found in the grand ballroom. I counted 14 television cameras lined up across the back of the room, and the center table where I was sitting had chief executives representing about a dozen sectors from advertising to power transmission.

A few minutes later a young, dapper man in a cobalt blue suit, matching suede loafers and a crisp white shirt - minus a tie - takes the center seat to my right. All eyes fix their gaze on Greece's rising star, 38 year-old Alexis Tsipras.

With a calm demeanor, but electric smile, the leader of the far left Syriza party and now the official opposition in the Greek parliament greets the host of the conference Daniel Franklin, executive editor of the Economist magazine. He turns and offers the same warm handshake to me and the first public policy address to the Greek business community gets underway.

Moments later, Tsipras takes the stage and wastes little time accusing the newly elected coalition government, made up of leaders from a previous generation, of rolling over in Brussels since it "could not negotiate to obtain oxygen that was given to others without a fight". FULL POST

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