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CNBC Interview with Deutsche Post DHL Group CEO, Frank Appel, from the World Economic Forum 2019


Following are excerpts from a CNBC interview with Frank Appel, Deutsche Post DHL Group CEO, and CNBC's Steve Sedgwick and Geoff Cutmore.

SS: Well, I'm delighted to welcome to the show Frank Appell, who is CEO of Deutsche Post DHL, Frank, really nice to see you. Look, you were just telling me, off camera, that you have circa 50,000 employees, 50,000 employees, in Great Britain, which I guess means that Mrs May, and her government, have spoken to you, they've spoken to you, along with other business leaders, to say, 'What do you want out of Brexit?' or-, or not?

FA: So, the government has not spoken to us very intensively-,

SS: How can that be?

FA: Yeah, that's a good question, but that's happening around the world quite often, that politicians are talking less frequently to businesses than they have done before, and I think that's a mistake, yeah, consistently, you know, because, you know, we need to be heard, somehow, you know, we do-, we continue to do our business, in the UK, and any other place, and, you know, we are working more as a global family, because our people, regardless where they come from, work together intensely to serve the customer-,

SS: Sorry, I-, I-, I know that-, that-, that I-, we should move on from this, because you've established the point there, as well, but when I hear the likes of the Business Secretary, and the International Trade Secretary, and the Secretary for Brexit, saying, Britain can go forth, and become this great animal spirit, and can become a trading nation once again, how do they expect to do that without the support of businesses? I-, I guess I'm asking you a question which you can't answer.

FA: Yes, so first of all, you know, if you look in to statistics, there has not been one single country, in the last 200 years, who has been successful with protectionism. You know. You can't succeed alone. The problems of the world are so large that we only can do that, and solve them together, and whoever dreams that, if you get that control, you will lose control, and you see that with Brexit, as well. The likelihood that Great Britain has more influence on European policy is, you know, diminishing, you know, the-, they will not have any control, and they might have to follow, even, the rules, somehow, so it's completely unreasonable to believe that you can do everything your own.

GC: Although you can build in business resilience, which I guess is what you're doing at the moment, so what kind of preparations are you making, with so much uncertainty around Brexit's conclusion?

FA: Yes, so, first of all, as a business, you obviously need a long-term strategy, that is the best defence, and, of course, we are preparing now, we are hiring people for customs clearance, you know, we are, you know, planning contingency plans, if there are queues at the border, uh, that's normal, day-to-day business, you know, this is not the first crisis, if it-, we don't even know if it becomes really a big crisis, it depends very much what, finally, the UK decides inbound, and the European countries decide outbound. It might be even that-, at the beginning, it might be more complex of export, because 27 countries have to align what the border control is. The UK, you know, unilaterally can decide, 'We don't check, we have no border control, we let it go,' like we did before, with the EU, that's unclear, at the current stage. So-, and you-, you do the best. You have contingency plans, we are discussing that on a regular basis, on a board level, we have task force, on all dimensions, and we are very-, I think we are very well prepared, even for the worst case, even if we don't know what really will happen.

GC: Frank, the-, the-, the stock price is very sensitive, at the moment, to news out of the German regulator, around this increase that you've asked for, around stamp prices. Can you shed any more light on that for us here? Is there any new news?

FA: No, I think it's now out, the news is out, it's preliminary decision, you know, how much we can increase postage. We are still in discussion, we will make our commentary to that, and then we will get the final decision. But the news is now how we can look forward, it happened, what happens, maybe we get a little bit more, but that-, that's still for discussion, but, you know, we take it now, what is in the paper, as what will happen, the investors know what will happen, and now we should look forward.

SS: You're on a panel, later on today, I think it's about global trade, and I think the-, the second headline from it is retreat and/or reinvention, or words to that effect, as well. Is global trade retreating because we're in part of a healthy slowdown in a cycle? Or is it retreating because of, in answer to your first point, about broader global protectionism, of course, we talk about the elephant in the room, the China/US relationship?

FA: So, we do, every other year, a survey which is called DHL Connectedness, and that's with some professors, and that will be published very soon, but preliminary results, of the results I have seen, show that 2017 was the best year ever, in globalisation, and even in '18, you have seen more free trade agreements than in some other years, so globalisation is not on the retreat, it's continued, despite all the noise. So, sometimes I say, better don't open the newspapers, just keep going-,

SS: Mm.

FA: Focus on what you're doing right, and then you will succeed, instead of worry too much about what's going on. There is no evidence that globalisation is on the retreat. The facts show the difference, information flow is up, capital flow is up, trade flow is up, people movement is up, in 2017, and we have not seen any major change in 2018, we believe.

SS: Ah, extraordinary statistic, I-, I actually had no idea, so thank you very much indeed for enlightening us. Always nice to see you, thank you very much indeed, Frank Appell, who is the CEO, of course, of Deutsche Post DHL.