CNBC25: Rebels, Icons and Leaders

25 Years of CNBC: How things have changed

Jessica Morris, special to
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Since its first broadcast in 1989, CNBC has reported on a rapidly transforming and increasingly globalized business community.

Every day, our newsrooms in London, Hong Kong and Singapore provide 24-hour coverage of international markets, business and economics.

Here's a quick look at how London, Hong Kong and Singapore have changed over the last 25 years.

Port of Singapore, then

PSA Corporate

Despite its small land mass and scarce natural resources, Singapore has achieved impressive economic growth over the last 25 years.

One of the secrets to its success is its port, which exports goods to all parts of the world.

In 1989 Singapore handled over 4 million shipping containers a year, according to a corporate spokesman for port operating company PSA International.

Port of Singapore, now

PSA Corporate

Today, it is one of the busiest ports in the world, second only to the Port of Shanghai.

A ship arrives at or departs the port almost every three minutes, according to the Singaporean government's website. And around 1,000 ships are anchored there at any one time.

In 2013, the number of shipping containers handled by Singapore's port had increased to 32 million, according to the PSA International spokesman.

London Stock Exchange, then

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The London Stock Exchange was in the throes of massive change 25 years ago.

It had been transformed by 1986's "Big Bang" package of financial reforms, which effectively ended the "gentleman's club" City, and heralded in the era of long hours and high pressure.

"Without that reform, it is doubtful if London would have retained its place as Europe's pre-eminent financial center," the Centre for Policy Studies said in a report looking back at the reforms.

A few years later, London's "junior" stock market, or the Alternative Investment Market (AIM), was launched. In 1995 there were 121 companies listed on AIM and it had a turnover value of £270.2 million.

London Stock Exchange, now

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The London Stock Exchange now sits at the heart of one of the world's biggest financial hubs. Britain's capital has long been locked into a fierce competition with rivals New York and Hong Kong for global predominance.

And as optimism surrounding the U.K.'s economic recovery grows, London is awash with companies eager to float.

"The first half of 2014 saw the strongest market sentiment for years as all types of firms rushed to get in on the IPO (initial public offering) action," John Hammond, head of equity capital markets at Deloitte, told CNBC via email.

UK supermarket, then

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If you needed to stock up on groceries in Britain 25 years ago, you headed to the hypermarket -- huge stores which stocked a wide range of everyday goods.

It was the first time customers could shop for food, clothes, home wares - and even have lunch - all in one trip.

"There was a race to build the future of retail", David Gray, retail analyst at Planet Retail told CNBC.

In 1997, Tesco unveiled Tesco Extra in Pitsea, Essex. The super-sized store stocked general merchandise as well as everyday groceries.

Smaller versions soon followed, and in 1994 Tesco opened its first Tesco Express store in London.

UK supermarket, now

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Today customers are faced with a dramatically different retail environment.

Small convenience stores by big brand names now pepper the streets of London - run by the same companies that once strived to build the biggest and best hypermarkets.

"The end of the 1990s saw a move to smaller stores. That trend has carried on and is continuing today at a very rapid pace", retail analyst Gray said.

But as more people shop online, one challenge retail bosses face is the growth of food e-commerce and how they can profit from it.

"It's growing rapidly and nobody really makes any money from it", Gray added.

Hong Kong, then

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Hong Kong's skyline sits between the deep waters of Victoria Harbour and green mountainscape.

"The defining feature of the Hong Kong skyline has always been the way it is held by Victoria Peak to south and Victoria Harbour to the north" Chris Fannin, senior vice president at HOK Planning Group, told CNBC via email.

In 1980, Hong Kong's first circular building, the Hopewell center, was built. Ten years later, the Bank of China Tower opened and was joined by a new Standard Chartered Bank Building. The triangle-tipped Central Plaza was added in 1992.

"The elegantly hermetic Bank of China Tower by (architect) I. M. Pei dominated the skyline, and raised the vertical stakes eclipsing 1,000 feet when opened in 1990," Fannin added.

Hong Kong, now

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Today, even taller buildings peer out from Hong Kong's skyline.

Hong Kong has 6,602 high-rise buildings, 1,325 skyscrapers and just 175 low-rise buildings, according to real estate data firm Emporis. It is now the city with the most skyscrapers in the world.

In 1992, the city's famous mid-level escalators came along, forming the world's longest outdoor-covered escalator system.

"Our tallest buildings rest atop the MTR (subway) stations, typically with millions of square feet in retail at their base," Fannin told CNBC.

In 2010, the International Commerce Centre (ICC), Hong Kong's tallest skyscraper, was completed.

"The IFC Tower by Cesar Pelli on the Hong Kong side, and the ICC Tower by Kohn Pedersen Fox on the Kowloon side, form a gateway that now dominates Victoria Harbour at its most narrow point," Fannin added.

Billionaires, then

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Japanese billionaire Yoshiaki Tsutsumi topped Forbes' list of billionaires in 1989.

He amassed his fortune through a spectacular retail property portfolio. After being mired by a number of scandals and arrested in 2005, however, he had slipped off the list by 2008.

In 1989, the U.S. had the most billionaires (55), closely followed by Japan (41). Singapore trailed behind with just two, and China didn't even make it onto the list.

Billionaires, now

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In 2014, the world's richest man was American billionaire Bill Gates, according to the Forbes' list of billionaires.

The entrepreneur amassed his fortune after co-founding software giant Microsoft. This year he stepped down as the company's chairman, but remains a board member and still acts as a technology adviser to new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

The U.S. has retained its lead with the most billionaires (492), but in 2014 was followed by China (152) and Russia (111). Japan's share of billionaires fell (27) while Singapore's increased (16).

Singapore, then

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Throughout the 1970s, Singapore imposed strict controls on foreign workers. However its rapid economic growth created a labor shortage, prompting more open immigration laws.

Since then, its formidable economy and high living standards have attracted talent from around the world, spawning a multiracial society.

"There was an expat community but it was nowhere near the size it is today," Chris Jay, a Singaporean expat and sales director at recruitment firm Morgan McKinley, told CNBC via a telephone interview.

"Hong Kong was the number one destination out of the two ... now they're on an equal level," he added.

The number of Singaporean citizens living in Singapore fell from 86 percent in 1990 to 64 percent in 2010, according to the Philippine Institute for Development Studies.

Singapore, now

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Today, international expats continue to arrive on the shores of Singapore.

Of these, 29 percent hail from nearby Malaysia, 23 percent from India, 8 percent are from Indonesia and 7 percent come from China, according to the HSBC Expat Explorer survey.

The city state typically attracts young adults, and around 64 percent fit into the 18-34 age bracket.

"Every one in three people you meet on the street is going to be an expat" Jay told CNBC.

Singapore is famed for the quality of life it offers expats, but this is being jeopardized by sky-high prices for housing and schooling.