Quartz daily brief—Europe edition—Bitcoin is property, e-book refunds, JP Morgan’s defector, Depardieu’s Russian pride

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What to watch for today

A new King of the stock exchange. King Entertainment, the maker of Candy Crush Saga, debuts on the New York Stock Exchange, having just priced its IPO at $22.50, in the middle of the expected range. That will raise the company around $500 million and values it at a bit more than $7 billion (paywall).

The world’s largest free-trade deal…US president Barack Obama and EU leaders are about to agree to remove all duties on bilateral trade. At a summit in Europe, the two will also discuss Ukraine, climate change and NSA spying.

… and a gas request. The EU will press US president Barack Obama to open up supplies of natural gas, as Europe looks to reduce the amount they import from Russia.

South Korea continues to grow. Last month’s reading of fourth-quarter GDP showed South Korea growing at 3.9% year-on-year, a three-year high. Hopes are high that growth will continue as demand from the West picks up, boosting Asian exports.

UK to toughen executive pay rules. Business secretary Vince Cable will announce new rules to better link top leaders’ pay to a company’s performance. Between 1998 and 2010 average CEO pay rose 13% per year—and the FTSE100 blue chip share index didn’t rise at all.

While you were sleeping

The US government defined bitcoin as property. For tax purposes, bitcoin is property rather than currency, according to a new decision from the Internal Revenue Service. Bitcoin investors will have to keep stringent records and pay tax on the value of bitcoins when they earned or mined them, which could make bitcoins useless.

China sent an envoy to Malaysia. A special group traveled to Kuala Lumpur on the orders of president Xi Jinping, to press for details of what happened to Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in its final hours. Chinese leaders, citizens and passenger families are angry over the way the Malaysian government has treated the situation.

The heir to JP Morgan defected. Mike Cavanagh, the co-head of investment banking at JP Morgan, who was widely thought to be next in line for the top job, is moving to The Carlyle Group. Cavanagh will serve as co-president at the private equity firm.

North Korea fired missiles towards Japan, at the precise moment Japanese and South Korean leaders sat down with US president Obama at the Hague, suggesting it is trying to punish the two countries. North Korea yesterday denounced China—it’s last ally—by calling it a turncoat, as its president Xi Jinping met Obama in Europe.

Morgan Stanley said Chinese stocks are still a buy. China’s consumption and services are bigger than official figures state, the bank said, and risks of “significant market disruption” are overstated.

Facebook bought into virtual reality. It is buying Oculus, which makes virtual-reality headsets, for about $2 billion in cash and shares. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg believes VR is not just a gaming gadget, it is the next big platform after mobile and the communication tool of the future.

China’s largest dairy company beat expectations. China Mengniu Dairy Company reported a 20% increase in sales and a 25% increase in net income for 2013. Net income was $263 million for the year. The company is partnering with non-Chinese brands such as Danone in an attempt to build consumer trust in Chinese dairy products.

Banks’ fines hit $100 billion. Banks around the world have forked out a collective $100 billion (paywall) in US-based legal settlements pertaining to the financial crisis. More than half of these were paid in the last year—and the fines show no sign of slowing.

Nook and Kindle readers got some money back. People who bought e-books between 2010 and 2012 woke up this morning to partial refunds, as part of the settlement big publishers reached last year in a price-fixing case. A New York Times bestseller merits a $3.17 refund, but a regular book gets only $0.73.

Quartz obsession interlude

Zachary M. Seward on why Apple’s dream for television keeps falling apart. “Three years after Steve Jobs said he had ‘finally cracked‘ it, Apple’s vision for the future of television isn’t much closer to reality. Apple’s pursuit of TV has included talks with seemingly every major player in the industry. Sources confirm at least preliminary discussions with Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, Disney, CBS, Time Warner, and Viacom. But the company is stuck between cable providers, which fear losing control of their subscribers, and content owners, which don’t yet see a viable business in the internet.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

China’s cities need to get denser, not bigger. The country needs to urbanize its rural citizens without letting its cities sprawl into surrounding agricultural space.

In Silicon Valley, failure is a badge of honor. The death of a start-up is not the death of a career.

Turkey’s Twitter ban isn’t about blocking criticism of Erdogan. It’s part of a bigger strategy to demonize social media.

Larry Page should donate his billions to Elon Musk. Companies can be more effective than charities at changing the world for the better.

Don’t buy into the hype of the “flat” company. Hierarchies still have staying power, because they serve all sorts of useful purposes.

Surprising discoveries

One in eight deaths is due to air pollution. And half of those are from indoor stoves.

Bulgarians are some of Europe’s laziest people. A staggering 78% claim that they never exercise.

Gérard Depardieu is heading a “Proud to be Russian” campaign… The French actor has launched a line of Cvstos watches under that banner.

Steepling your fingers isn’t a sign of evil. Studies show the favored gesture of Bond villains merely denotes confidence.

Your position on the ballot paper matters. Voters—especially lefties—tend to favor the candidate on the left. Being listed first also helps.

China is leading the global movie market. Box-office sales in China surged by 27% last year, boosting worldwide revenues by 4%.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, easy exercise routines, and unusual protest methods to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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