Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—Alibaba IPO, Thai PM faces ouster, South Africa election, robotic moral dilemmas

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What to watch for today

Jacob Zuma secures another term. His ANC party is on track to take 64% of the vote in the South African election, despite discontent about inequality and corruption. The election marks South Africa’s 20th year of democracy.

Nintendo languishes in the red. The Japanese gaming company is set to post a $240 million annual loss and a 36% drop in revenue, after managing to sell only 2.8 million consoles compared to its 9 million target. Fewer consoles means fewer games sold, which is where Nintendo makes its real money.

Janet Yellen faces some unscripted questions. Market players are itching to know when the US Federal Reserve will raise interest rates, and the Fed chair might drop a few clues in testimony before Congress—particularly in light of last week’s surprisingly strong jobs data.

Thailand delivers a verdict on Yingluck. The Constitutional Court is likely to find prime minister Yingluck Sinawatra guilty of abuse of power, removing her from office and banning her from politics for five years. That could set off violent protests from Yingluck’s supporters, who believe the courts are biased in favor of the Thai urban elite.

While you were sleeping

Alibaba filed for its IPO. The long-awaited filing showed that the multi-faceted Chinese internet giant (see our “obsession interlude” below) made 8.27 billion yuan ($1.33 billion) in profit in its latest quarter—more than double the year before. Its ambitions, at least for now, are to expand domestically, not globally.

Twitter’s stock took a tumble. Shares in the social network dropped more than 18% to a record low of $31.72, following the end of the post-IPO “lockup period,” when employees and early investors can sell their shares for the first time. Many rank-and-file Twitter employees complained that they were blocked from cashing out while executives sold their own shares.

Australian retail disappointed in March. A 0.1% rise in sales missed analysts’ predictions, and narrowly preserved an 11-month win streak. Consumers spent more on restaurants and less on household goods and clothes (paywall).

China’s service industry expansion slowed… The Markit/HSBC purchasing managers’ services index fell to 51.4, from 51.9 in March, but stayed above the 50 mark that separates expansion from contraction. Although services are still growing, they are not enough to offset the worsening slowdown in manufacturing.

…And Standard & Poor’s warned over China’s local government debt. Budgetary strains created by a slowing property market could have “very wide-ranging implications for the entire economy and also credit markets,” said the ratings agency in an email to Bloomberg. There is already plenty of evidence that the country’s property bubble may already be bursting.

“Frozen” heated up Disney earnings. The animated film’s $1.2 billion in ticket sales helped the company beat analysts’ earnings expectations. Net income rose to $1.9 billion, from $1.5 billion a year earlier.

Quartz obsession interlude

Gwynn Guilford, Lily Kuo and Nikhil Sonnad explain Alibaba’s vast empire. “Alibaba, which is expected to file for its IPO any day now, isn’t just the ‘Amazon of China’—it’s also the Dropbox, PayPal, Uber, Hulu, ING Direct, and more. Though Google has its fingers in a similarly high volume of pies, its enterprises, unlike Alibaba’s, are exclusively digital. Alibaba’s distinct businesses resemble more than a dozen major Western companies, by our count—a phenomenon we’ve sketched out in the graphic below. In the text that follows, we unravel some of that complexity—and explain how Alibaba has expanded on its way to a New York listing.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

The US doesn’t scare its foes or reassure its friends anymore. With Russia bullying its neighbors and Syrian killing its people, what ever happened to Globocop?

Business and politics do mix. Global business leaders should use next week’s St. Petersburg economic form to speak up to Vladimir Putin (paywall).

Robot cars need moral programming. Minimizing harm to others might mean hitting the motorcycle driver with a helmet, instead of the one without.

The US needs to choose its approach to immigration reform. It can either be like Sweden or Qatar, but not both.

We should stop looking for life on Mars. The oceans of Jupiter’s moon Europa would be a much more likely place to search.

Surprising discoveries

Legal weed is putting cartels out of business. Mexican cannabis farmers are closing up shop, as legal US supply is drastically lowering marijuana prices.

India found a solution to its public peeing problem. A masked group is spraying wayward urinators with a water cannon.

Ten hedge fund managers made $15 billion last year. That’s more than the GDP of Jamaica or Iceland.

The selfie is now a political tool. Mark Zuckerberg’s political advocacy group wants celebrities to publish self-portraits to lobby for immigration reform.

China plans to reverse-engineer breast milk. The $1.6 million project will attempt to create a more natural form of baby formula.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, robotic moral dilemmas, and breast milk formulas to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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