What to watch for today
Just how bad was 2012 for Amplats? The world’s biggest platinum miner announces its earnings for a year filled with strikes at its South African mines. The company, a big employer, has been in tense negotiations with the government over mothballing mines and slashing its workforce.
First day of trading on Iraq’s biggest post-war IPO. The share offering for 25% of Asiacell, the biggest Iraqi mobile-phone firm, closed on Feb. 2, slightly oversubscribed, with foreigners buying 70% of the shares. Its effect on trading could be interesting: Asiacell’s stake will be worth half the Baghdad stock market.
Mariano Rajoy fights for his political life. Spain’s prime minister is under pressure to resign over allegations that a slush fund channeled secret payments to members of his Popular Party including Rajoy himself, which he denies. An online petition calling on him to quit had amassed over 800,000 signatures at the time of this writing.
Over the weekend
More resignations at Barclays… The British bank’s finance director and general counsel are reportedly stepping down. It’s seen as an attempt by the bank to start with a clean management slate after the Libor rate-setting scandal and new allegations that it padded its balance sheet using a loan to Qatar.
… while RBS’s fines will come out of managers’ pockets. Britain’s chancellor of the exchequer told the Royal Bank of Scotland that fines to US regulators over the Libor scandal will have to come out of money set aside for staff bonuses. It’s expected to be a pretty gloomy bonus season for bankers in the US this week too.
Foxconn to get real unions. Apple’s main manufacturer is planning independent elections for union positions. It would be the first large Chinese company (it employs 1.2 million people) to cede control away from managers and apparatchiks.
Cubans voted. The island held elections for the National Assembly of Popular Power, which meets twice a year and whose candidates are all chosen by the Communist party. Turnout was expected to be around 95%.
Myanmar held its first literary festival. Hot on the heels of BarCamp, a massive international tech conference, the country that is just shaking off decades of military rule held a star-studded gathering of writers.
Quartz obsession interlude
Steven Chu’s legacy. Tim Fernholz and Christopher Mims argue that the Nobel physics laureate who served as Barack Obama’s first-term energy secretary served as little more than a figurehead: “the aspirational vessel into which the nation poured its green energy hopes.” However, Steve LeVine argues that Chu “may eventually be seen as the most consequential person to hold the post since it was created in the 1970s,” having seeded centers for research and innovation in energy and materials science that could potentially drive a US economic revival.
Matters of debate
America needs more babies. The country’s falling fertility rate threatens to pitch it over a “demographic cliff” of rising welfare costs, declining innovation and dwindling power.
Is the “Great Rotation” a fairytale? Evidence for a rush out of bonds and into stocks, taken as a sign of better economic prospects, is thin.
The world should learn from the Nordic countries. Their government services are expensive, but at least they work.
The problem with Abenomics. Japan’s prime minister may not need an independent central bank when he’s battling deflation, but he will when it turns to inflation.
The remains of King Richard III? Scientists will reveal today whether a skeleton dug up under a parking lot might be the reviled 15th-century monarch.
Russian judges do have some shame. A judge has offered his resignation after a video showing him sound asleep during a defense lawyer’s speech was posted online.
Burkas for babies? La, say Saudis. Twitterati in the desert kingdom ridiculed a cleric who argued that even baby girls should be fully covered to protect their modesty.