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Quest Means Business

Deadly Wildfires Rip Through Mali; Five Americans Detained In Iran Now Under House Arrest; US Headline Inflation Edges Higher In July; Disney's Mixed Results In Quarterly Earnings; ECOWAS Condemns Confinement Conditions For President Mohamed Bazoum; Call To Earth: Blue Heart Of Europe; Middle Eastern Airline Competition Heats Up. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired August 10, 2023 - 15:00   ET



RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: With an hour to go on trading, there is green for the big board, but it has dwindled. It seems to be coming back

a little bit now. It shows the market is as little betwixt and between, but we are up, and it has been a very busy day.

So dozens of people are dead and the devastation is widespread, as catastrophic wildfires are ripping through Maui in Hawaii. We'll show you

the latest pictures and we'll bring you fully up to date.

New data is suggesting that US inflation is easing its grip. We need to look at sticky inflation and what that means.

And Riyadh Air is the new sponsor of Atletico Madrid, Spain's biggest football clubs, and yet, it's at least 18 months before Riyadh flies a

single passenger flight.

We are live from New York, Thursday, August the 10th. I'm Richard Quest and in good, August, I still mean business.

Good evening.

I'll have those new numbers on US inflation in just a moment after I've updated you on what's going on in the US state of Hawaii.

President Biden's declared a disaster as the state struggles to manage wildfires on the island of Maui. It's now known that 36 people at least

have been killed and the governor there says billions of dollars' worth of structural damage has taken place.

The FAA, that's the aviation administration is restricting airspace near the affected areas.

For a full report, CNN's Veronica Miracle has more from there.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh my gosh. Look at the harbor.

VERONICA MIRACLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The view from above is of shock and heartbreak.



It looked like an area that had been bombed in the war.

MIRACLE (voice over): Wildfires rampaging across the island of Maui.

DUSTIN KALEIOPU, LOST HOUSE IN MAUI WILDFIRE: Our entire street was burned to the ground.

MIRACLE (voice over): Decimating homes and businesses.

JAMES TOKIOKA, DIRECTOR, HAWAII DEPARTMENT OF TOURISM: Local people have lost everything. They've lost their house. They've lost their animals and

it's devastating.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lahaina is on fire.

MIRACLE (voice over): The historic town of Lahaina, a popular tourist and economic hub on the island's west side, particularly affected with hundreds

of structures impacted.

CLAIRE KENT, HOUSE BURNED IN LAHAINA ON MAUI: It happened so fast. People stuck in traffic trying to get out and they're staying on both sides of the

road like something out of a horror movie.

MIRACLE (voice over): Most of the fires on Maui fueled in part by violent winds caused by Hurricane Dora churning more than 800 miles away, those

winds now subsiding as the storm pushes away.

MAJOR GENERAL KENNETH S. HARA, HAWAII STATE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE: The primary focus is to save lives and to prevent human suffering and to

mitigate great property loss.

MIRACLE (voice over): State Department crews assisting in efforts to restore communication across the islands and distribute water with military

helicopters aiding in extinguishing the fires.

HARA: Two CH-47s supporting Maui County. They flew 13 hours, did 58 drops and about 150,000 gallons of water to assist with the suppression of the


MIRACLE (voice over): Recovery will be a long road ahead according to Hawaii's Lieutenant Governor, Silvia Luke.

SILVIA LUKE, HAWAII LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: The damage to the infrastructure, it is not just buildings. I mean, these were small businesses that invested

in Maui, these are local residents. And, you know, we need to figure out a way to help a lot of people in the next several years.


QUEST: The fires are during the busiest part of the year for Hawaii Tourism. The state's government is working with airlines to add flights off

from Hawaii and hotels on other islands are welcoming travelers from there.

The head of the state's Business Tourism Department said they're hoping to salvage people's vacations as well.


TOKIOKA: We have shared with our hotel partners to make sure that we can give them the best rates available. We're trying to accommodate people,

some people have saved their whole life to come to Hawaii and it would be a shame if they just went straight to their homes.


QUEST: A story we will continue to watch closely.

Another extraordinary story that's been developing over the past few hours, five Americans who were wrongfully detained in Iran for years have now been

released from prison under house arrest. It is thought to be the first step towards their eventual release from Iran all together.


In March, one of those citizens, Siamak Namazi spoke exclusively to CNN's Christiane Amanpour pleading with the Biden administration to get him home.

Christiane explains who these American prisoners are and the long campaign for their release.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR (voice over): It was a heartfelt plea heard around the world.

SIAMAK NAMAZI, IRANIAN-AMERICAN BUSINESSMAN: Honestly, the other hostages and I desperately need President Biden to finally hear us out, to finally

hear our cry for help and bring us home, and I suppose, desperate times call for desperate measures.

So this is a desperate measure, right? I'm clearly nervous.

AMANPOUR (voice over) Siamak Namazi was Iran's longest held American prisoner. He was arrested in 2015 while on a business trip, and then

sentenced to 10 years for "collaborating with a hostile state."

Namazi, a dual citizen always denied the charge and Washington accused Iran of wrongfully detaining him.

This was the desperate appeal he made to us from inside -- in prison in our unprecedented conversation.

NAMAZI: I think the very fact that I've chosen to take this risk and appear on CNN from Evin Prison. It should just tell you how dire my situation has

become by this point.

I spent months caged. I spent months caged in a solitary cell that was the size of a closet, sleeping on the floor, being fed like a dog from under

the door. And honestly, that was the least of my troubles.

AMANPOUR (voice over): Siamak's elderly father, Baquer who is now 86 was lured to Iran in 2016, with the promise of seeing his son. Instead, he too

was arrested, imprisoned for two years and then barred from leaving the country.

He was finally allowed out last October to seek medical treatment abroad. He's never stopped publicly campaigning for his son's release.

BAQUER NAMAZI, SIAMAK NAMAZI'S FATHER: I will never truly be free until Siamak is here beside me. I could not be more proud of his courage, but I

don't want him to have to be brave anymore, I want him to be safe. I want him to be free, to live life he should have been living for the past seven

years. I want him to be home.

AMANPOUR (voice over): Among the other hostages released along with Namazi, a businessman, Emad Shargi and Morad Tahbaz, who have both been held for

more than five years.

They say they never so much as jaywalked and they were held only as Americans to be traded on the geopolitical market. Before they are

released, their families tried to rally support.

NEDA SHARGI, SISTER OF EMAD SHARGI: I know that they are desperate, that they are scared, and they feel like they've been forgotten. They have been

determined officially by the Department of State, by our secretary of State as having been taken, detained by the Iranians, for one reason, and that is

because they are Americans.

TARA TAHBAZ, DAUGHTER OF MORAD TAHBAZ: My father is an amazing person. He is so calm, so kind, so generous, so noble, and I think just how my

siblings and I have been able to carry ourselves through this surreal nightmare is just a testament to him and my mother and everything that

they've instilled in us in who they are.

AMANPOUR (voice over): Former New Mexico governor, Bill Richardson, who advocates for some of these families puts it bluntly.

BILL RICHARDSON, FORMER NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR: And this has happened in Russia, Venezuela, Iran, North Korea. It is a pattern, it's a new hostage

diplomacy that we have to start confronting.

NAMAZI: Just do what's necessary to end this nightmare and bring us home. Thank you.

AMANPOUR (on camera): We'll get that message out Siamak.

AMANPOUR (voice over): These few may finally have been released, but will they be the last American hostages taken by Tehran?

Christiane Amanpour, CNN, London.


QUEST: We turn now to our business agenda of the day. US inflation has broken a 12-month cooling squeak as underlying pressures eases.

Inflation rose to 3.2 percent in July. Now, it is slightly higher than June's three percent reading. Investors are optimistic as the core

inflation rate ticked downwards.

The Dow jumped early in the day on the news. It was up by as much as 400. Now, it's given up a lot of those gains.

By far, the biggest contributor to July's inflation number was shelter, housing, accommodation. It accounts for more than 90 percent of last

month's increase.

Now, the cost of shelter, that's the sort of technical name is up 7.7 percent year-on-year.

Many economists expect that rate to fall or even go negative next year.

Matt Egan is with me.

The interesting part about shelter besides being a sticky component of inflation is that it is such a large component in people's income, paying

for their accommodation, that it can fuel into the wage spiral.


MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Yes, absolutely, Richard. I mean, shelter is the one that you really feel when it's getting inflated, and that's what's


But I think the good news from this report is it really does very much keep alive all of those soft landing hopes.

I mean, yes, annual inflation did heat up a bit, but as you mentioned, that is after a record long streak of 12 straight months of cooling inflation

and this was largely due to calendar effects. It was actually softer than expected.

And core inflation, what is really encouraging there is it cooled off for the fourth month in a row? Moody's Analytics chief economist, Mark Zandi,

he declared on Twitter that this was a "great report." He said, if anything was softer than people had anticipated.

And so I do think big picture here, Richard, this is going to give the Fed even more room to hold off and not raise interest rates when they meet

again in September, and it does raise those hopes that the soft landing that many people thought was impossible could still happen.

QUEST: Right, and where is the latest thinking in the market on September?

EGAN: Market is betting the Fed is doing nothing in September, and I think those expectations have actually solidified after today's report.

We saw markets rally on this report. The Dow at one point was up about 400 points, as you can see off the highest levels of the day, but still solidly

in the green.

It feels as though markets are not nearly as concerned about the inflation story and about the Fed's war on inflation, because it does continue to

move in the right direction -- Richard.

QUEST: And I do wonder whether the Fed will even with all of that want a bit of insurance? A final quarter point just drives it home.

EGAN: Yes, maybe too much so though, Richard, right? I mean, they've already done this so much, right? They've already raised interest rates by

five whole percentage points.

Yes, some officials of the Fed are going to look at those numbers, right, some of the areas where inflation is still heating up --

QUEST: Four point nine percent on food. We know gasoline is we're going to be talking about, LNG is higher by because of other issues, but it is

higher. This is going to feed in in the fullness of time.

EGAN: Absolutely. I mean, I think energy is one area that if you're Jerome Powell, is going to keep you up at night, because we've seen natural

gas prices spike, gasoline prices tick up and that plays a very important role psychologically.

But there are other areas where inflation is cooling off. You look at airfare, those prices were down year-over-year, gasoline is still down

year-over-year. Same thing for egg prices. So you can find some areas where things are heating up, some areas where things are cooler, but I think the

big picture is the trend and the trend is going in the right direction -- Richard.

QUEST: Matt Egan, thank you, sir.

We're talking now about what's happening with energy prices. European natural gas is pulling back slightly. It surged 40 percent last week, and

the reason had nothing to do with anything else other than workers may go on strike at a key Australian export of LNG facility.

And I mean, as we're getting into with our next guest, it nearly shows the interconnected nature of the energy market and a strike that actually has

no effect on your personal delivery would actually raise prices.

But after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, it is down nearly 90 percent. This week's move show that markets are concerned about Europe's energy supplies,

even with the storage levels near that capacity.

Paolo Gallo is the chief executive of Italian gas distributor, Italgas is with me now. It is good to see you, sir. It is interesting, isn't it?


QUEST: That a strike in Australia, where we don't even export much into the northern hemisphere has effects simply because it is a global market.

And if Australia has to get or if Australia's customers need elsewhere, that pushes up the price of everybody else.

GALLO: Right, well, you know, I think there are a lot of speculation around that. Because if we look at the European situation, the European situation

is in a very nice, let me say easy situation for the winter.

We had an incredible level of our storage. In Italy, we passed 85 percent at the end of July. So it remains like 10 percent to be filled between now

and the starting of the winter season. And if you look today at the gas price in Amsterdam, it went down back to less than 40 euro per megawatt

hour, I think 35 to 36 euro per megawatt hour.

So to me, there is a lot of speculation, a lot of volatility. So any rumors, anything said by somebody will eventually drive the price high and

you have also to consider that during this period, the consumption of gas is very low so there is not much volume.

QUEST: So if we look at the way in which this time last year, we were all extremely concerned about the situation if it was a particularly bad

winter in Europe and the US.

Now, we got through and the reliance on Russian gas. Well, it's still high, but oil is virtually non-existent now. Are we in a good position for next


GALLO: I was optimistic last winter and I am even more optimistic this winter. The reason being is that the Russian gas for example, in Italy, it

accounted only for a little bit more than six percent in the six months, moving from like 30 to 35 before the Crimean War.

And why I'm so optimistic about the next winter is because there has been in the last 12 months, a lot of activity in order to diversify the sources.

I'm looking at, especially to Italy, and therefore, I'm expecting the next winter should be okay, and they should also remind you that last winter, it

was also okay, not really for the mild weather that contribute to for about one-third, but two-thirds of the reduction came from the action put in

place by our governments.

QUEST: Can I turn to your own company and the measures that you're taking to diversify the company into water and things and grease and things

like that. I mean, I can see the argument for diversification, but why water, which is a highly regulated highly difficult has -- I mean, as I was

discovering in the UK, as you know, sewage issues, supply issues, great infrastructure costs, why water?

GALLO: Well, I know, but if you look at the first -- you know, in a very simple way looks quite awkward that gas distribution will enter into the

water distribution.

But if you go more deeply, you will realize how close the two businesses are. If you look at the Italy situation, we have an average leakage of

water, loss of water, that is over 40 percent, meaning that every hundred liters that you pump into the distribution system, more than liters are


We feel that what we have developed from a digital application in reducing gas leakages. Our gas leakages, I will have to give you the number, is 0.1

percent in relation to the gas instability. If we are able to apply everything that we ever done in our activity to the water, we can make a

big step forward and managing water distribution, it is easier than the gas distribution, honestly.

QUEST: We look forward to following it up, sir. Thank you very much for joining us, kind of you tonight.

As we continue, Smurfit Kappa that makes the box for just about everything. If you've got some gifts and trinkets, then you will want one of these. If

you've got fruit and goods, then perhaps a good flat box is what you need. And even you can pour your favorite beverages from this one.

Now, what this all shows me is that this is an excellent company to tell me what's happening in the global economy because their boxes ship about just

about everything.

The CEO, Tony Smurfit is going to be with me after the break.



QUEST: The company is called Smurfit Kappa, you may not have heard of it, but it's a packaging company, and at first glance, it seems rather

simple like the boxes it makes. But if you peek inside its earnings, like delivery companies, you'll learn a lot about the global economy.

So for instance, earlier this month, it reported a five percent dip in net profits. Sounds bad enough. But the company says it's partly because it

made so much money during the great recovery of 2022, pent up demand in global markets.

Also shipping volumes this year are very low, by contrast, and that's arguably because there is a slowdown that we've talked about in the global

economy. The company has remained confident about its future, and then you have all the issues that become more manageable, for example, market

conditions, all the things that it can, and it can't control both in the manufacture of its products, in its customers products and in the global

economy, which is why I'm delighted that we have for the first time Tony Smurfit on the program, the CEO who joins me from Dublin. So thank you,


And look, let's get straight to the heart of it. Your company because it makes the packaging that other people use, what is it telling you about

what's happening in the global economy?

TONY SMURFIT, CEO, SMURFIT KAPPA: Hi, Richard, and thanks for having me on. I think what has been very illuminating for us is that we had massive

demand during the COVID period. We have never seen such significant growth in our business across the world, and in a sense, this year, it has really

reversed because people are not spending their money on their houses and on durables. They're spending their money on travel, as you'll see from

airports and hotels.

So, there has been a tremendous shift in spending patterns over the last three years, and so what we've seen this year, I mean, this is the second

best first half in our history by a longshot, and so we're very proud of what we've done, despite some of the challenges and it is a function of how

we position the company.

We are in 36 countries, with 48,000 people in the company, and we position the company really, really very well over the last period of time to make

sure that we're able to capture some of the really big macro trends in growth for our business, and they are mainly in sustainable packaging,

because, you know, obviously the world wants to move and needs to move away from fossil based packaging, and towards our packaging, which is, as I say,


And then of course, the whole e-commerce trend has been a massive trend --

QUEST: Let's, break this up. Let's break this up, if we may, just a bit.

On this question of the sustainable packaging, the various ESG measures, we're coming up to COP 28, and I know you've been critical of the UK

government and its carbon capture plans that it recently announced.

The issue of sustainability, are we in real danger now of greenwashing left, right and center?

SMURFIT: Of course we are and the companies like mine should never do that. I mean, we have to invest in real, tangible reductions in our carbon and

our wastewater to make sure that everything that we emit going forward is cleaner and better and better for the planet.


And if we don't do that, we're only fooling ourselves, so we in Smurfit Kappa have been very clear on that for the last 16 to 18 years since we've

been producing our reports and I think we've made progress.

There is a lot more to do, and there are obviously new technologies that need to come into being to allow us to really get carbon -- get to become

carbon neutral. But you know, greenwashing is just an excuse, really.

QUEST: Okay, it's an excuse not to do what is necessary. But I often think when I look at packaging, there must be a better way. But of course,

there probably isn't.

You know, I mean, I think many of us are familiar with big pockets and small parcels, so to speak, and thankfully, one major distributor is no

longer quite putting out an orange and a bottle in a big box. But what is the answer? Because you do have to package the stuff and it has to be safe,

and it has to be secure and it has to be valid.

SMURFIT: Absolutely. The answer, you know, in our case, we have over a thousand designers across the world to make sure that packaging is fit for

purpose, and to make sure that we package in the lightest way possible, making sure they use the least amount of materials and making sure that you

know, the package fits the product.

I mean, anything is -- waste is bad, Richard. Any waste is bad, so waste in corrugated packaging is bad and that's what we try to eliminate.

What we're really focused on in our company, and I know other companies are as well, but you know, we'd like to consider ourselves the leader in this,

is really making sure that we understand what the customers pain is, and to make sure that we package those products exactly right for them, and

exactly right, to make sure that they meet their own objectives in sustainable packaging.

QUEST: So as you look out, I mean, inflation is now coming down, which means your own cost inputs are coming down as well, although I suspect fuel

is still quite a component. What is it that you worry about? Is it for example, like the UK, higher interest rates, more expensive mortgages,

cutting back on discretionary spend, therefore, companies buy less of your product because they don't need it as much?

SMURFIT: Well, obviously, inflation is really bad news and that needs to come down. I was delighted to listen to your report a few minutes ago to

see that it's coming down in the United States. It needs to come down. It's coming down in certain European countries, but not in others.

Inflation coming down will mean interest rates coming down and when that happens, you know, the good news is cookers wear out, TVs wear out,

durables wear out and they need to be replaced, houses need to get built.

There is, as you know, a large housing crisis in the United Kingdom and many countries where there needs to be a lot more housing put in and that

means durables and that means boxes.

QUEST: Have you ever met something you couldn't package your box?

SMURFIT: Absolutely not. We can do anything. We can package anything, Richard.

QUEST: I feel the gauntlet has been thrown. And Tony, we will talk again.

SMURFIT: Indeed.

QUEST: Great. Thank you. Nice to have you on for the first time. We'll certainly be back with you again.

To Disney, which has its upping the price of its streaming service, Hulu and Disney+,. The cheapest plans are more than $14.00 a month in the US,

and it is a 27 percent hype for Disney+. It is close to the cost of Netflix and Max, which of course, is the streaming platform of our parent platform.

The streamers are still leagues below cable. Here in New York, range about 60 a month. The announcement was made on Disney's latest earnings call,

mixed results. The stock is now at four-and-a-half percent on the back of this new earning.

Nathaniel Meyersohn is with me.

Two increases in costs. Why does Disney think it can get away with jacking up the price twice in a year?

NATHANIEL MEYERSOHN, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER: Well, Disney is betting, Richard that its catalogue is strong enough that people are going to

continue to pay for it no matter how much it increases prices.

Disney is still one of the most popular streaming services so they haven't been proven wrong, but two price hikes in a year doubled the price of what

it cost when it first was announced in 2019, $6.99. That's really going to test consumers, so we're going to see if they can handle those price hikes.

QUEST: Is Bob Iger out? I mean, he's got problems wherever he looks. We were talking last night about what he might do. Disney+ still has huge

numbers of subscribers.

MEYERSOHN: Yes, they still have more than a hundred million subscribers. One of the most popular streaming platforms. Look, Iger and all of these

media companies, they're following similar playbooks, the legacy media companies moving away from cable, as people cut the cords, into streaming.

Again, Disney is facing a lot of trouble. They're hoping that price hikes are the answer. But there's no telling where this goes, how much consumers

can handle it. We're just going to have to wait and see.

QUEST: All right, Nathaniel Meyersohn, thank you, sir.

QUEST MEANS BUSINESS tonight, worrying signs, what will be ahead in Niger. The coalition of countries of the West African nations are now activating

what they call its standby forces. There's a phrase we need to understand properly. In a moment, QUEST MEANS BUSINESS.




QUEST (voice-over): Hello, I'm Richard Quest, a lot more QUEST MEANS BUSINESS as we continue. The situation in Niger is growing more dangerous

and now the West African regional bloc, ECOWAS, has ordered the activation of standby forces.

Saudi Arabia's new airline won't carry its first passenger until 2025.

So why is the airline putting in place a sponsorship deal with a football club?

The CEO of Riyadh Air will be with me shortly. Only after the news because this is CNN and, here on this network, the news always comes first.


QUEST (voice-over): The presidential candidate in Ecuador, Fernando Villavicencio, was assassinated in the capital on Wednesday. The killing

comes only 10 days before the election. Officials say the vote will go ahead as planned and those responsible will be brought to justice.

Russia is keeping up deadly attacks on civilian targets in the Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhya. Regional officials say the hotel was hit by two

missiles on Thursday. They killed at least one person and injured nine.


QUEST (voice-over): He says the toll could've been much higher but air raid sirens caused some people to run for shelter.

Virgin Galactic has finally got its space tourism dreams off the ground. This morning, the V.S.S. Unity left New Mexico; on board, three passengers

for an hour-long journey, 80 kilometers above the planet. The successful trip comes after a decades-long effort to launch a near-space tourism



QUEST: The West African regional bloc, ECOWAS, has ordered the activation of its standby forces. They're continuing to wear possible intervention in

Niger over the ongoing military coup. Here's the president of the ECOWAS commission, announcing what the bloc had agreed to at today's summit in



OMAR AILEU TOURAY, PRESIDENT, ECOWAS: Order the deployment of the ECOWAS standby force, to restore constitutional order in the Republic of Niger;

underscore its continued commitment to the restoration of constitutional order through peaceful means.


QUEST: ECOWAS had previously threatened military action if the country's president in Niger was not reinstated within a week. That deadline came and

went. This makes it a significant moment for the bloc and its legitimacy. Take a look.

It's formed as a trading union in the mid 1970s. Now, the regional's political instability is tugging at the coalition's fabric. Four of its 15

members are currently suspended, following military coups. And while ECOWAS has a long history of military interventions, too, they've taken that step

in Niger, with a bigger, broader conflict within the bloc.

Ikemeset Efflong is the head of research at SBM Intelligence, a geopolitical research firm focused on West Africa.

What does it mean, a standby force?

There's an argument that says, if you're going to have a standby force, they better be standing by for something. And you better be prepared to use


IKEMESET EFFLONG, HEAD OF RESEARCH, SBM INTELLIGENCE: Yes, indeed, Richard. Thanks for having me on the show.

So the ECOWAS standby force is basically a mechanism which has been discussed in various guises over the past two decades, really because of

the ratcheting up of military takeovers in the region.

ECOWAS, which has had a regional interventionist approach toward managing this sort of risk and this dates back right well into the '90s, completing

Liberia and Syria alone, determined that -- a more robust and more permanent intervention, well, potentially interventionist, (INAUDIBLE) is


It's worth noting, the ESF (ph), we don't know so much about its funding, it's been bogged down by potential funding constraints. There are also

questions about how many troops, member states will be committed to this.



QUEST: Is it --


QUEST: Sorry, the delay on the line.

But is it your feeling this -- that ECOWAS does have the stomach for a fight?

EFFLONG: The thing is, the stomach for a fight really depends on marshaling the necessary political will. And political will is (INAUDIBLE)

to find. Right across the West African subregion for a military intervention in Niger at this point.

Senators in Nigeria, for example, indicate that in a closed-door session, that they would vote to authorize Nigeria, who had formed a bloc of any

sort of interventionist commitments to these efforts, right, to send Nigerian boots, in effect, to its neighbor.

And with political appetite being here in Nigeria, they're going to be hard-pressed to find any sort of concerted commitment right from within the

West African region. This standby force, for example, its eastern (ph) complement is supposed to be led by Nigeria.

And people do right now, it's just being put on a standby footing, this announcement this evening from Abuja, does not necessarily mean that troops

are going to be marching in either tomorrow or next week. It's not clear right now that the Nigerian president is going to get that senate

authorization to make this an actual reality.

QUEST: So the one thing that's always been clear about these sorts of events is that, if you promise and don't deliver, you make a bad situation

worse. So if they go down this road, standby forces.


QUEST: I mean, the U.S. deputy secretary of state or the assistant secretary, Victoria Nuland, wasn't even seen by the regime. So it's very

difficult to see -- both sides are painting themselves into a corner, from which it's going to be almost impossible to extricate.

EFFLONG: Yes, very much so. I think ECOWAS' first mistake was actually meeting with the possibility of military intervention, when exhaustive

efforts on the diplomatic front were still very much underway.

The thing right now is that ECOWAS feels that, with what happened in Mali in 2020 and again, in 2021 and also what happened in Burkina Faso, with

those military interventions in those countries, as well as an attempted coup in the south, it felt like it had to draw a red line with Niger.

The challenge is that, for many West Africans, democracy hasn't necessarily led to economic development. And so for many people on the ground here in

the region, there's actually a causal relation between the presence of democracy and a lack of real economic development and real economic

outcomes on the ground.

So this is why West Africa continues to remain a palatable (ph) (INAUDIBLE) environment for these sorts of interventions. And ECOWAS, while trumpeting

the democracy card for years, hasn't really paid attention to the E in the acronym ECOWAS, which stands for economic.

That's one thing that many West Africans, including Nigerians and a lot of these countries that are talking tough right now on Niger, have --


QUEST: I'm grateful for your time tonight, we'll talk more as this thing continues. Thank you, sir.

It is some years before, or maybe 18 months or two years before Riyadh Air will fly its first paying passenger.

So why is this airline sponsoring Atletico Madrid?

Why are they putting their name on a T-shirt or a football shirt, before they're actually flying an aircraft?

QUEST (voice-over): The CEO on this new sponsorship deal in just a moment. QUEST MEANS BUSINESS. (INAUDIBLE).




QUEST: The Balkans, renowned with exquisite natural river systems. Now a boom of highly (INAUDIBLE) projects in the region could threaten the

wildlife involved. Today, on Call to Earth, delighted to meet the scientists working to protect these waterways from overdevelopment.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): In the dense forests of Bosnia- Herzegovina, a strip of blue-green water carves its way from the Dinaric Alps to the Adriatic Sea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): The Neretva is probably one of the most exceptional rivers in Europe. It's one of the few places where you have big

and large, intact ecosystem. There is no road in between. There is no logging fields. There's not even trails. It looks like pure wilderness.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): But this is changing. According to the Center of Environment, a Bosnian NGO, more than 50 hydropower plants are

proposed along the river's 140-mile length. If built, environmentalists fear these would alter the river's course and character forever.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Dams destroy rivers completely. Because the impact is not only where the dam actually is, you impact everything

upstream and everything downstream.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): This is why Ulrich Eichelmann, together with more than 60 scientists, converged on the banks of the Neretva in

June, as part of the Save the Blue Heart of Europe campaign. They're on a mission to collect data on the river's unique biodiversity and to build a

case on why it should be preserved.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): We need to do more than ever before to save the last remnants of European beauty.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): For some scientists like Kurt Pinter, saving the river means wading out into the crystal waters and discovering

who lives in it.

KURT PINTER, SCIENTIST: One of the main problems we're facing is how (INAUDIBLE) severe (ph) blocking the migration, which is a very important

part of the life cycle of most (INAUDIBLE) species here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): But there is one species in particular he is searching for.

PINTER: What we tried to find here is the softmouth trout. It's a very special and endemic trout, which can only be found in a few rivers in this

area. Neretva is one of the last rivers that's holding a vital stock of the species.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Already endangered, he fears the proposed dams could drive it to extinction. This could cause ripple effects

across the surrounding ecosystems. It's a delicate balance between providing energy and protecting the environment.

In Bosnia Herzegovina, hydropower is a key source of electricity and it could help the country transition away from fossil fuels. The campaign

says, it's not against hydropower altogether but it wants to implement no- go zones in areas of key biodiversity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): There is a reason for dams. There's a purpose for hydropower. But like in medicine, when a small doses might be

correct and healthy, if you take too much of it, it's deadly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Recent history shows that nature can win. In March 2023, after several years of campaigning, the Vjosa, a river

in the nearby Balkan country of Albania, was granted protection.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Eventually, we convinced the government to not build dams but to create a wild river national park instead. That is a

very new model of river protection that we inaugurated, created. And this created a little flush of waves across the Balkans.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): The Balkans is one of the few areas of Europe where free-flowing natural river systems still exist. For scientists

and conservationists alike, that is reason enough to preserve them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This, we call it the Blue Heart, because it's the last large area where we have this jewel. It's like a gift to

Europe that these rivers survived decades of destruction. And on the Balkans, we have this one chance to keep this Blue Heart beating.



QUEST (voice-over): Of course, I'm fascinated to know what you're doing to answer the call. #CallToEarth. (INAUDIBLE)




QUEST: Its first paying passengers won't be until probably 2025. But Riyadh Air's logo will be seen everywhere.


QUEST (voice-over): The new airline is now the official sponsor of Atletico Madrid. You'll see its logo on the front of every player's shirt.

And although we're now familiar it with, it, it joins a long list of Middle East carriers with competitor sponsoring major European clubs.

Emirates, for example, which sponsors Real Madrid, Atletico's major competitor; Arsenal, which Etihad of course, from Manchester City. And

Qatar, which has Paris Saint-Germain.

Tony Douglas is the CEO of Riyadh Air.

Tony, looking very relaxed after your quick trip to Madrid. Why do -- I understand sponsorship. I understand the rationale of marketing.

But why do this before you've carried a passenger?

TONY DOUGLAS, CEO, RIYADH AIR: Well, I have to say, Richard, this has been the most incredible two days. I have literally just arrived back here in

Riyadh from Madrid. And we have, as you've explained, entered into a long term partnership with Atletico Madrid.

An incredible sporting team, incredible history; they've won La Liga 11 times. They've never been out of the top three for a long time. And they've

qualified for the Champions League every time, for over a decade.

Why is it so important for us?

We are creating a global brand. We've created a fair amount of noise. Since we last spoke, in Istanbul, at the IATA AGM, following, that it was the

Paris Air Show, revealing our livery.

One of, two we will reveal the second one later on in the year. This sports sponsorship today is with a club that's got a lot in common with us.

They're the world's most digitally enabled sporting club, with 147 million followers.

And in September, when they play Real, that you mentioned, there'll be over a billion people watching that televised, all around the world.

What will they see?

Riyadh Air.

QUEST: Right, but they'll also see Emirates on the competitor.

DOUGLAS: And I hope, my dear friend, Tim Clark, will be sat next to me in the directors' box and we will be able to enjoy Riyadh Air on one shirt and

of course, Emirates on the other.

But what we are delighted with, with this, is a statement of how we connect with a global populist that follow sports, when they play Barcelona, well

in excess of a billion people following as well.

So for us, this is our first major global sponsorship. There will be more but this is super exciting for us today. And what a statement, Richard.


QUEST: Well, how much are you paying?

You're not going to tell me, you know, give me six figures, seven figures, eight figures, nine figures.

How much are you paying?

Because Saudi projects have a reputation for paying, I would say, generous amounts of money because they've got the money.

DOUGLAS: Well, you know I'm not going to give you a number, Richard. You would not expect that.


DOUGLAS: However, (INAUDIBLE) quite clear, the value we've got from this, in our opinion, is absolutely exceptional. It's a win-win for both Atletico

and ourselves. And the common denominator is a digital audience.

We will be the world's first true digital native as an airline, where Atletico have become, is one of the biggest digital followerships in the

whole of the world of soccer. So for us, this is a super, super special deal.

QUEST: Do you have a date of first flight?

DOUGLAS: So yes. We'll be taking deliveries 787-9s in 2025 and our schedule will commence in the second quarter. So this is a big buildup.

It's a tease, it's a reveal. Like we did at the Paris Air Show, we tried to tease everybody and then we revealed the first livery.

If people are following on Instagram, Riyadh Air, and on Twitter, --


QUEST: Here we go, here we go.

DOUGLAS: -- over the last two weeks, we've been teasing and then we reveal.


DOUGLAS: And later on this year, Richard, you can't wait yourself to see our second livery. And we won't disappoint there.

QUEST: I said to you in IATA, that you are a tease and we've got years, if not months, of you teasing.

DOUGLAS: Let's face it, 2025, for some people, feels like a long time in the future. In the world of commercial aviation, it's a very, very short


What we want to do is build excitement. We want to build more engagement. Sports sponsorship is a big part of that. But we won't disappoint, there

will be plenty more teasing and there will be lots of revealing as well.

QUEST: Tease and reveal, Tony Douglas. Now there is a thought for you. I'll be in Riyadh later in the year for FII. We will be looking forward to

visiting you and actually seeing it for ourselves. Thank, you sir.

Our summer series on Friday continues. I'll be out of New York tomorrow, Asbury Park in New Jersey, about a half an hour ago, that's where Bruce

Springsteen got his start. We will be at the beach, where we will be talking lots of business.

That's Asbury Park, it is tomorrow's QUEST MEANS BUSINESS, Summer Fridays. And we will have our Profitable Moment after the break.




QUEST: Very short Profitable Moment, just to simply say, very looking forward to tomorrow at the beach. Next, we'll be looking forward to being

in Mongolia. We'll be in Ulaanbaatar. QUEST MEANS BUSINESS well and truly on the road, going to the places, no matter who you are. And we'll be

broadcasting from there.

And that's QUEST MEANS BUSINESS for tonight, I'm Richard Quest, I'm in New York tonight. Whatever you're up to in the hours ahead. I hope it's

profitable. The Dow's gains have sort of gone. But it's still green. "THE LEAD" is next.