Quartz Daily Brief—Asia edition—La Quinta’s IPO, Zambia’s bond sale, Lithuania’s euro approval, Japanese toilets

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What to watch for today

An outlook on global recovery. Global finance leaders convene in Washington for the International Monetary Fund’s twice-annual meeting, and the IMF is set to bump up its global growth estimates following signs of recovery in advanced economies. But don’t get complacent; Larry Summers believes the world economy is looking as troubled as ever.

Wait-and-see mode in Japan. Economists expect the central bank to keep interest rates unchanged, although it previously indicated it might take some more monetary easing steps to boost the economy. Analysts fear that Japan’s sales tax hike a week ago will hinder fiscal recovery, but it’s probably too soon to tell.

La Quinta names its price. The budget hotels operator, currently 63% owned by Blackstone, is set to price its shares between $18 and $21, raising more than $780 million when it floats on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday. La Quinta is the third hotel chain taken public by Blackstone in the last six months, including Hilton late last year.

Time Inc. looks for a loan. The print magazine arm that Time Warner is spinning off this summer meets institutions that might be willing to lend it $900 million. The company is Time Warner’s worst-performing unit and is looking for the type of loan usually issued as junk-rated debt.

Cheap aluminum costs weigh on Alcoa. Analysts expect the aluminum firm’s earnings per share to have halved over the past year, largely dragged down by tumbling aluminum prices (paywall) and oversupply. Investors will be looking to see how well individual units do and whether the company is holding on to its solid market share.

The US clamps down on the gender wage gap. President Obama will sign two executive actions: one prohibiting federal contractors from penalizing employees who discuss pay, and one requiring them to submit salary data, including breakdowns by gender and race, in an attempt to make pay more transparent and fair.

While you were sleeping

Cement giants got into the mixer. Switzerland’s Holcim agreed to buy France’s Lafarge in a merger deal that will create the world’s biggest cement company, with annual sales of $44 billion. The duo will need to sell around $5 billion worth of assets to appease competition regulators across 15 jurisdictions.

Ireland swallowed another US company. Mallinckrodt, the pharma company headquartered in Dublin, will hand over $5.6 billion for California-based Questcor Pharmaceuticals. The deal is part of Mallinckrodt’s plan to focus on specialty pharmaceuticals and the latest example of a company relocating to Ireland for a lower tax rate.

Lithuania got the green light to drop the lita. It will become the 19th country to adopt the euro after European lawmakers approved its bid to join. The country’s first attempt was blocked in 2006 due to concerns about rising inflation. Subject to final consent in July, the switchover is scheduled for January 2015.

Africa issued its first sovereign debt of the year. Zambia sold $1 billion worth of 10-year dollar-denominated bonds (paywall) at a yield of 8.625%, slightly lower than expected, a sign investors are interested. But rising borrowing costs and emerging-market jitters mean the sale was weaker than Zambia’s first, when it sold $12 billion of bonds at just 5.63%.

The battle for VKontake heated up further. The founder of the Russian social network and the private-equity firm that owns 48% of it filed competing lawsuits (paywall) in the British Virgin Islands. Pavel Durov, a.k.a. “Russia’s Mark Zuckerberg,” quit as CEO of VKontakte last week, seemingly under pressure from pro-Kremlin shareholders, only to un-quit two days later.

Quartz obsession interlude

John McDuling on Silicon Valley’s latest obsession: education. “Venture capitalists are pouring funding into new technologies for a trillion-dollar industry in the US that could be ripe for disruption: education. Education technology startups attracted $1.25 billion in funding in 2013, according to analysis by CB Insights, and the boom has grown in 2014, with ed tech companies attracting nearly half that amount ($559 million) during the first quarter alone.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

The global economic recovery is just an illusion. The IMF has admitted it was wrong before, and it could just as easily be missing key indicators now.

Big data is a big overhype. It’s a helpful analytical resource, but it’s not all its cracked up to be (paywall).

South Korea’s female president hasn’t fixed the country’s sexism problem. Her new plan to name and shame companies with too few women might work, though.

Putin isn’t invading Ukraine; he’s sabotaging it. The Russian president is using territorial threats and financial leverage to assert his dominance.

Digital currency will starve the homeless. No one carries cash anymore, so technology might do what law has never been managed.

Surprising discoveries

No one does toilets like the Japanese. Wet wipes and bidets have nothing on these.

MSNBC has the most accurate coverage of climate science. Fox News, however, is misleading 72% of the time.

Big banks are going small-town for their annual meetings. Citigroup, for example, has ditched Carnegie Hall for St. Louis, Missouri (paywall).

Drug stashing is the new stamp collecting. The items have sentimental value for some; others just enjoy the hobby.

The world’s most hated font has had a makeover. Comic Sans, meet Comic Neue.

And this new font could make your driving safer. Using Burlingame on car instrument displays should make information slightly easier to absorb so drivers can spend more time looking at the road.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, hygienic toilet designs, and safer fonts to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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