Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—Suntory buys Beam, Google’s Nest egg, shark prevention, redhead sex appeal

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What to watch for today

Egypt heads back to the polls for a two-day referendum on a new constitution. A large turnout and a yes vote would bolster the military regime which ousted democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi in July.

Cracking the banks’ books. JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo report fourth-quarter results, as the US earnings season gets going in earnest.

Euro zone industrial update. New data should shed some light on whether Europe will be able to stay out of recession, after a worrying drop last month.

How merry was Christmas, really? US retail sales figures for December will reveal whether Americans were feeling naughty or nice.

While you were sleeping

FBI suspects mortgage front-running. The bureau think traders are manipulating derivatives markets used by US mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, Reuters reports. Separately, the US charged three former Rabobank traders with manipulating LIBOR and other benchmark interest rates.

Japan’s current account deficit hit a record. The gap between payment for imports and revenue from exports tripled to a wider-than-expected 592.8 billion yen ($5.7 billion), risking investor confidence in government-issued debt.

It’s Suntory time for Beam Inc. Japanese beer and whiskey giant Suntory agreed to buy the company behind Maker’s Mark and Jim Beam for $16 billion including debt. The rationale? Japan has an aging and shrinking population, so companies have to look abroad for growth.

Thailand protesters threaten stock exchange. Anti-government protests have been mostly peaceful, but the shutdown has paralyzed businesses and government ministries, with some operating from back-up sites like an arts-and-crafts center.

A $61 billion Time Warner Cable takeover bid. The cable operator rejected the unsolicited offer, part of a long-running rivalry between three families questing for industry domination.

Google bought a Nest egg. The internet giant paid $3.2 billion for Nest, which makes internet-connected household devices (so far, a thermostat and smoke alarm). In doing so, Google bought itself a foothold in what should be a massive industry, the creation of a smart electrical grid.

Quartz obsession interlude

Gwynn Guilford on why an Australian program targeting lethal sharks won’t make humans safer. “By making them unable to move enough to breathe, both nets and drumlines almost always kill any sharks who become ensnared. But despite the decades-long history of Queensland’s and New South Wales’ shark control programs, it’s not clear that the logic behind them—kill big sharks, stop the attacks—actually works.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Today’s football players are more than human. But they’ve become so perfect that they’re boring (paywall).

Bitcoin could save the legal marijuana industry. Where banks fear to tread, the digital currency could be a game-changer.

Don’t tie pay to performance reviews. It creates a “blame-oriented culture.”

New Jersey epitomizes America’s woes. Governor Chris Christie’s scandal takes place against a backdrop of dysfunctional suburban sprawl.

Surprising discoveries

Alexander the Great died from toxic wine. If he was poisoned, it wasn’t arsenic that did in the empire builder at the age of 32.

It depends on the meaning of “own.” Banks find a linguistic loophole to challenge the Volker rule’s limits on making risky bets with their own money.

Redheads are less attractive, genetically speaking. The recessive gene could signal a lack of genetic mixing—an evolutionary turnoff.

An app could help you spot sex offenders. It sounds like a really bad idea.

Best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, shark corralling schematics, and ancient toxicology reports to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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