Quartz Daily Brief—Asia edition—France’s tax pickle, GE’s Alstom bid, World Cup winners, vampire theories

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

Cold makes the US economy shrink. After an initial estimate of 0.1% growth for first-quarter GDP, analysts expect a revision down to -0.6% in the second estimate. This would be the US economy’s first quarterly contraction in three years, but it can probably be put down to the bad winter.

Daniel Loeb joins Sotheby’s board. The activist investor and two others proposed by Third Point, Loeb’s hedge fund, are likely to be elected to the auction house’s board (paywall), after persuading the company to postpone its annual shareholder meeting from its original date in early May to accommodate their nomination.

The world’s biggest wine fraudster gets his sentence. A New York court will decide whether Rudy Kurniawan deserves 14 years in prison and a $20.7 million fine, as prosecutors claim. Kurniawan’s defense laywers argued for a shorter sentence and a maximum fine of $12,500.

Frontier markets hit a six-year high. After five consecutive days of growth, led by Nigeria and Vietnam, the FTSE Frontier Markets index is less than a point away from breaking through its highest level since the financial crisis started in 2008.

Palestinian politicians join forces. Gaza’s Hamas movement and Fatah, which runs the West Bank, will create a unity government, headed by Palestinian Authority prime minister Rami Hamdallah. PA president Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah will announce the news in Ramallah, and will visit the Gaza Strip for the first time since Hamas ousted Fatah from there in 2007.

While you were sleeping

A big day for accountants. A new rule on how companies book revenue harmonized America’s accounting standards and the rest of the world’s. Under the existing system, some firms book revenue when a sale is agreed and others when payment is made. The overhaul, which comes into effect in 2017, was 12 years in the making.

France fudged its taxes. The French government overestimated its 2013 tax income, rolling in €14 billion ($19 billion) less than expected. The country made €16 billion from president François Hollande’s increases to income tax, corporation tax and VAT—just over half the €30 billion it expected.

Valeant’s better Botox offer didn’t smooth out the wrinkles. Valeant Pharmaceuticals upped its cash offer for Allergan, the maker of Botox, from $47 billion to $49.9 billion, but investors didn’t think the improvement went far enough. Shares in both companies dropped.

General Electric played the jobs card. GE pledged to create 1,000 jobs in France within three years if its takeover of the power unit of French firm Alstom is successful. The French government is in talks with GE and Siemens over their bids for the company. Your move, Siemens.

Obama unveiled a new military policy. Speaking to the graduating class at West Point’s military academy, President Obama announced a $5 billion counter-terrorism fund that will train allies in North Africa and the Middle East, leaving locals to defend themselves without American intervention.

The Beats is on for Apple. Three weeks after rumors first leaked, Apple confirmed it’s buying Beats Electronics, the headphone and music-streaming company, for $3 billion. Apple CEO Tim Cook downplayed suggestions that Apple’s biggest purchase ever marks a new strategy by noting that Apple has bought 27 companies in the last 18 months.

Maya Angelou died at the age of 86. The renowned memoirist and poet passed away in her North Carolina home. Her groundbreaking first book, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, told what it was like for a black woman to grow up in the Jim Crow South. She won the US’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 2011.

Quartz obsession interlude

Steve LeVine on the cold logic behind Elon Musk’s $5 billion gamble. “Elon Musk is placing an enormous bet on the world’s largest lithium-ion battery plant—a $5 billion, 10 million-square-foot “gigafactory” that would make enough battery packs to power 500,000 electric cars a year. That is four times the number of electric cars of any brand bought around the world last year, and a whopping 21 times Tesla’s own 2013 sales. In addition to betting on this monumental sales boost, Musk is hoping an inventive rival won’t eclipse his battery technology and render the gigafactory instantly obsolete. But the deck may be at least partly stacked in Musk’s favor.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

China’s territorial provocations are a clever strategy. In antagonizing its neighbors, it’s showing that they can’t rely on the US for protection (paywall).

The “internet of things” is overhyped. It won’t be the biggest disruption since the web—there are too many missing pieces.

In India, the corner shop is still king. Try as they may, major retailers can’t get Indians to buy fresh produce from their stores.

Brazil will win the FIFA World Cup. Goldman Sachs’ number crunching says so— as did Bloomberg’s.

And England definitely won’t. Especially if it comes to penalties: ”England couldn’t hit a cow’s arse with a banjo,” says Stephen Hawking.

Surprising discoveries

Hong Kong just trumped New York’s Fifth Avenue. Russell Street is now the most expensive shopping area in the world.

Vampires are real. A Welsh professor has launched an academic survey into the UK’s vampire subculture.

Domestic dads raise ambitious daughters. Girls of parents who share housework are more likely to defy gender roles in their professional lives.

This is your brain on porn. People who watch a lot of it have differences in certain key areas of the brain—but it’s not known whether porn-watching is the cause or the result.

Nigeria is the most smartphone-addicted country. And dozens of other delightful charts about global internet usage.

Don’t call a boomer a boomer. Here are some tips for millennials on how to deal with colleagues from the “baby boom” generation.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, dirty dishes, and vampire sightings to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

Sign up for the Quartz Daily Brief here, tailored for morning delivery in Asia, Europe & Africa, and the Americas.