Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—China’s slump continues, NATO in Palestine, Thai election disrupted, “missed call” scams

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What to watch for today

Hard times befall a hard-nosed airline. Struggling discount carrier Ryanair is expected to post a third-quarter loss of €35 million ($58 million), down from an €18 million profit in the same period last year. So much for the allure of added frills.

India auctions its airwaves. The government could raise 11,300 crore rupees ($1.8 billion) in its third round of spectrum auction. Eight telecom companies, including Vodafone, will bid for bandwidth after weak initial rounds.

Ukraine’s president gets back in the game. After a four-day sick leave due to an acute respiratory infection and a high temperature, Viktor Yanukovych returns to the office today. Protestors have been calling for his resignation since Yanukovych rejected a trade deal with the EU in November, choosing Russia’s support instead.

A permanent role for NATO in the Middle East? President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority proposes to US secretary of state John Kerry that a NATO force patrol a future Palestinian state, which would not have an army of its own.

Over the weekend

China’s slump deepened. The official factory purchasing managers’ index fell to just above the 50 mark that separates expansion from contraction, and services PMI also declined, as Asian stocks continued their slide amid fears of an emerging market slowdown.

Thailand’s disrupted elections. The government claimed victory but protesters forced hundreds of polling stations to close on Sunday. Since not enough candidates were able to register, parliament will not have enough members to convene, which could leave Thailand in political limbo for months.

Abu Dhabi is flying to Italy’s rescue. Etihad Airways, the Abu Dhabi carrier, said it is on the verge of agreeing to an investment in Alitalia, Italy’s troubled airline. Etihad would potentially take a 40% stake in Alitalia for up to $405 million in the next 30 days, saving Alitalia from bankruptcy.

Spain rallied for the right to choose. Thousands of Spaniards took to the streets in Madrid to protest a government-backed bill that would limit abortion rights to instances of rape and serious health risks. Currently, any woman in Spain has the right to an abortion during the first 14 weeks of her pregnancy.

Hedge funds filed a lawsuit against Porsche. The chairman of Porsche and another board member could be forced to hand over €1.8 billion ($2.43 billion) in damages to seven hedge funds that are suing the luxury carmaker and its management for misleading the market (paywall) in the run up to its failed takeover bid for Volkswagen in 2008.

Philip Seymour Hoffman died. The most admired actor of his generation, who bagged an Oscar in 2006 for his role in Capote, was found dead of a suspected heroin overdose at the age of 45. What might have been his finest performance may never be seen.

Seattle and Budweiser won, Denver and mass transit lost. The Seattle Seahawks cruised to an easy 43-8 victory over Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII. In an evening of softer, fuzzier ads, industry watchers praised RadioShack for its homage to the ‘80s, but the beer maker won the web; meanwhile the record numbers of riders using packed trains to get to the game labeled the first “mass transit Super Bowl” an epic fail.

Quartz obsession interlude

Jason Karaian on why banks aren’t selling their non-core assets as fast as they should be. “The managers in non-core units are charged with selling off these assets for as much as they can, as fast as they can. The thing is, some distressed debt investors tell Quartz that it’s harder than it should be to purchase these otherwise unwanted assets. [One] reason, investors say, comes down to the people working in the banks’ non-core units. Once these workers sell the assets they’re charged with disposing of, they’re out of a job. Thus, they drag the sales process on for as long as possible. For banks, this means that their balance sheets are weighed down by dud debts longer than strictly necessary, which consumes scarce capital and management attention.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Bitcoin’s mood swings are over. Considering that the cyber currency’s price was pretty stable in January, people might start to take it more seriously.

The gender wage gap isn’t as bad as you think. US president Barack Obama said American men earn $0.23 more than women per dollar, but the pay difference is actually about five cents.

China’s military is weaker than it looks. But its enemies shouldn’t get complacent; that actually makes China more dangerous.

Surprising discoveries

Vegetables are the third-most popular Super Bowl food. They even beat chicken wings.

Say goodbye to expensive, environmentally harmful ink printer cartridges. Chinese scientists are working on a water-based ink.

Be wary of that missed call. Crooks are using the “one-ring” scam to get people to call expensive premium phone services.

South Koreans are the world’s biggest boozers. They drink twice as much liquor as Russians.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, football facts and South Korean cocktail recipes to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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