Quartz Daily Brief—Asia edition—Comcast’s TWC coup, Nigeria’s missing oil money, Apple’s ethics, Viking Valentines

February 13, 2014
February 13, 2014

What to watch for today

Italy’s prime minister steps down. With less than a year in office, Enrico Letta will hand in his resignation. His center-left party voted 136-16 in support of a proposal brought by his rival for party leadership Matteo Renzi, the mayor of Florence. 

South Korea chides its creditors. South Korea’s Financial Services Commission will decide how much to fine three consumer finance companies—KB Financial Group, NH Financial Group and the Lotte Group—after about 60 million people were affected by the country’s biggest theft of credit card data. (More than half South Korea’s spending is done on plastic).

France flirts with recession. France could officially fall into recession today following several weak data points after its economy shrank by 0.1% in the previous quarter. Analysts expect fourth-quarter GDP across the euro zone to grow by a modest but steady 0.2%, led by Germany.

The US hashes out its China policy. US secretary of state John Kerry visits Beijing to discuss relations with North Korea, political tensions in the Asia region and trade with the US. Meanwhile, the US will decide whether imports of solar panels from China and Taiwan threaten local producers and should be taxed.

While you were sleeping

Comcast tied the knot with Time Warner Cable. The biggest US cable company agreed to acquire its second-largest rival for $44 billion, bringing together two of America’s most reviled companies.

Nigeria drilled for missing oil money. Nigerian lawmakers initiated a probe into the state oil company’s accounting practices on allegations of a $20 billion hole in the firm’s reported revenues. Foreign investors fled following the news, driving the Nigerian naira to a record intraday low of 167 to the US dollar.

The US cast a pall over Avon. Avon Cosmetics said it could end up paying $132 million to appease US criminal and civil inquiries into allegations that it paid bribes in China—far more than the $12 million settlement Avon originally offered.

Apple skewed ethical. As part of its factory conditions overhaul, the tech giant said it would name and shame its suppliers that used “conflict materials” for its products (paywall), and encourage ethical sourcing of gold, tun and tungsten.

Belgium legalized child euthanasia. The country became the first country to allow children of any age a “right to die.” The law requires parental consent and, controversially, that the child understands the meaning of euthanasia.

Quartz obsession interlude

Tim Fernholz on why the current Comcast-Time Warner Cable tie-up plan won’t happen. “Comcast and Time Warner Cable are two of the largest telecoms in the United States, providing television service, broadband internet and landline telephone to millions of people. Telecoms already tend toward monopoly behavior that hurts consumers, which is one reason that the two firms are notorious for being the most disliked in America’s most-disliked industry. And while Comcast will point out correctly that the two companies don’t compete in the same regions of the US, that’s not likely to convince regulators that their merger won’t affect national competition between telecoms.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Amazon should unbundle its Prime package. Instead of upping Prime’s price and losing customers, users should be able to elect which elements work for them.

House of Cards depicts modern love better than any romcom. How appropriate, then, that the new season debuts on Valentine’s Day.

Comcast’s planned takeover of Time Warner Cable should be blocked. The mega-merger would kill competition in the US cable industry, and that’s bad for customers.

Japan needs a gender revolution. It needs its women to boost its population and GDP, but its glass ceiling stands in the way (paywall).

Surprising discoveries

Vikings sent Valentine’s Day cards. This 900-year-old slab of bone says “kiss me” in coded runes.

Brands are losing their luster. In the age of information, consumers don’t rely on logos; they forage for value.

Schools have weather models for determining snow days. From timing to temperature, there’s quite a lot to be considered.

Winning the lottery makes you more right-wing. We’re not even talking millions—just a piddly $800 win.

Women are now more educated than their husbands. It’s the first time in more than 50 years of monitoring that wives have surpassed their husbands’ degree levels.

Earwax says a lot about a person. Including country of origin, diet, environment and physiology.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, coded Valentine cards and earwax analyses to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

Sign up for the Quartz Daily Brief here, tailored for morning delivery in Asia, Europe & Africa, and the Americas.

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