Quartz Daily Brief—Asia edition—Ikea’s top dog, Pfizer’s bid, Obama’s humor, meditating bankers

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What to watch for today

South Africa’s unemployment figures. A recent BBC poll showed that joblessness is the most important issue to young voters ahead of Wednesday’s election, with around half of recent graduates unemployed—third only to Greece and Spain. The unemployment rate in South Africa is 24%.

Pfizer’s contingency growth plan. In light of AstraZeneca’s repeated rejections of Pfizer’s takeover advances, investors will want to know how Pfizer will grow—and continue to rival Merck—if it doesn’t win the Anglo-Swiss company’s good graces. Analysts expect a 7.8% rise in earnings on a 10.6% drop in revenues.

An outlook on the EU’s economic prospects. The European Commission publishes its spring economic forecast, which covers 2013 to 2015 and includes data on key economic indicators such as GDP, inflation, employment and public debt. The report not only looks at the EU’s 28 member states but countries vying for candidacy.

Next steps in the hunt for the MH370. Leaders from Malaysia, Australia and China refuse to give up on the search for the missing airplane. They meet in Canberra to plan next steps, including deployment of assets and how to engage with the victims’ families. Additional underwater search equipment will installed in the coming week.

Over the weekend

Big banks are turning their backs on Russia. Amid escalating tensions in Ukraine and increasing sanctions on Russia, US banks are slowly but surely pulling out of the region (paywall). In the first quarter of this year, Citigroup cut its exposure to Russia by 9%, JPMorgan Chase by 13% and Bank of America Merrill Lynch by 22%.

Ikea’s founder packed it in. It emerged that Ingvar Kamprad, the Swedish furniture giant’s 88-year-old founder, retired from all formal roles (paywall) at the company in December, leaving Ikea wondering who will guide it now. Although he hasn’t been CEO since the ’80s, Kamprad has held a board position since starting the company in 1943.

UK’s Labour party demanded a closer look at Pfizer’s bid. Leader of the opposition Ed Miliband urged the government to launch a probe into whether Pfizer’s proposed takeover of AstraZeneca is in the UK’s national interest. Although the company rejected Pfizer’s latest bid on Friday, an approved deal would be the biggest takeover of a UK company by a foreign firm.

The world’s biggest sovereign wealth fund switched banks. Norges Bank Investment Management, a Norwegian oil fund with an $865 billion portfolio, ditched JP Morgan in favor of Citigroup (paywall). Norges, one of the world’s largest investors, holds an average of 1.3% of every listed company globally.

Obama wowed at “nerd prom.” President Obama entertained his crowd at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner with a slew of self-deprecating digs and jokes at others’ expense. For example: ”These days the House Republicans actually give John Boehner a harder time than they give me—which means orange really is the new black.”

Quartz obsession interlude

Tim Fernholz on why humanity’s penchant for building bigger is a waste of money. “Between $6 and $9 trillion dollars—about 8% of annual world-wide economic production—is currently being spent on projects that individually cost more than $1 billion. These mega-projects (including everything from buildings to transportation systems to digital infrastructure) represent the biggest investment boom in human history, and a lot of that money will be wasted.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Mexico’s energy reforms are flawed. In their current form, the proposed reforms “will function as little more than a checking account for the nation’s politicians.”

Sky-high valuations are bad news for startups. If the IPO market sours, there are few other options for financing and exits.

Inequality is likely, but not inevitable. Society has found ways to beat common illnesses and fix physical ailments; it can do the same with inequality, too (paywall).

Indian intellectuals are increasingly backing Narendra Modi. The controversial candidate has rebranded himself “as a go-getting, business-friendly free marketer.”

Surprising discoveries

The lifespan of white goods is falling. They just don’t make ’em like they used to.

Your country’s income can have a greater affect on your happiness than your personal wealth. Living among the wealthy has both upsides and downsides.

London’s bankers are turning to meditation. The practice of “mindfulness” (paywall)  helps you react rationally rather than emotionally.

The world’s most popular sport is terrible at statistics. Moneyball changed the way baseball is played, but soccer doesn’t seem to have caught on.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, soccer stats, and meditative techniques to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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