Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Alibaba’s unveiling, Scotland votes “No,” Glaxo’s massive fine, eBay’s papal skullcap

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What to watch for today

Alibaba shares the love. The Chinese e-commerce giant will begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker “BABA.” The company priced its IPO shares at $68 and is expected to raise nearly $21.8 billion on a valuation of $168 billion.

All hail the Apple phablets. The long-awaited iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are out today in the US and other selected markets—but not in China, where they’re made. Orders are on pace to beat the iPhone 5’s opening-weekend sales of 9 million. Here’s how to decide which one to buy, and here’s what you should avoid doing at all costs.

Hold onto your volatility hats. Four stock futures and options contracts expire today in a quarterly phenomenon called “quadruple witching,” which often leads to frantic trading and market gyrations. Add to that the market-moving Scottish referendum results, US stocks hitting all-time highs, and the Alibaba IPO, and the ride looks even rockier.

An independence bid in Barcelona. The Catalan parliament is expected to call for a November vote on independence from Spain. Madrid has said that the referendum is unconstitutional (paywall).

New Zealand elections are around the corner. Incumbent prime minister John Key is seeking a third term this weekend. The latest poll shows his party in the lead—despite Edward Snowden’s allegations and a lawsuit by Eminem.

While you were sleeping

Scotland voted “No” to independence from the UK. The “No” votes against breaking up the 307-year-old union between Scotland and Britain won by a wider-than-expected 54.2%-45.7% margin. “Scotland has decided by majority not, at this stage, to become an independent country. I accept that verdict of the people,” said Alex Salmond, Scotland’s first minister, in his concession speech. “We will go forward as one nation.”

Russia sanctions forced Exxon Mobil to hit pause on Arctic oil drilling. Just days after new US and EU sanctions were declared, Exxon halted work on a project that aimed to extract an estimated 9 billion barrels of oil from beneath the Kara Sea, sources told Bloomberg. Exxon has eight more days to cease all arctic exploration work with Russia’s OAO Rosneft.

China fined GlaxoSmithKline nearly half a billion dollars. A court has found the British drug company’s Chinese subsidiary guilty of bribery, fined it a record $491.5 million, and jailed several executives including country director Mark Reilly. The company apologized and said that the “illegal activities“ of its China unit were a clear breach of GSK policies.

Telefónica bet big on Brazil as Vivendi retreated. The Spanish telecom group bought the Brazilian broadband company GVT from France’s Vivendi, in a cash- and stock-based deal worth $9.3 billion. The move will make Telefónica the dominant telecom operator in Brazil, where it reaps one-fifth of its total revenue, while Vivendi finished its radical restructuring.

A typhoon shut down Manila. The Philippine capital shuttered its government offices and financial markets as the storm known as “Mario” caused severe flooding.

SAP bought into the cloud. The German business software giant acquired the online travel expenses company Concur (paywall) for $8.3 billion—the acquisitive company’s biggest deal yet—in an effort to expand its web services offerings for corporations. Seattle-based Concur is a rare survivor of the first dotcom boom.

Quartz obsession interlude

Gwynn Guilford on why Homer Simpson’s beer mantra is a lot like China’s approach to real estate. “[J]ust like alcohol, China’s property construction sector—which [the country] relies on to drive up to a fifth of its GDP—is at once “the cause of, and solution to” if not all, then many, of its economic problems. That’s because even though this over-reliance makes the country’s economy unusually vulnerable to home-sale slumps—and financial risks—the government has in the past rescued its swooning economy by—you guessed it—encouraging more real estate investment.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Vladimir Putin loves rumors. Comments about invading neighboring countries were taken out of context, but the speculation helps him anyway.

Midlife crises are biologically coded. We should acknowledge their existence and adjust accordingly.

The UK is a dead union walking. It may have survived the Scottish independence vote, but its structure is broken.

Surprising discoveries

You can get airplane food delivered to your house, for some reason. German subscribers get a weekly business class meal; this week it’s “Arabic seafood” or panserotti with porcini mushrooms.

Wal-Mart Mexico is being investigated for holding a cockfight. A spokesman said the roosters were unarmed and uninjured.

South Koreans are splurging on job application mugshots. Some recruiters believe that photos trump other resume details.

Papal skullcaps can fetch more than high couture. An auction for Pope Francis’ cap is already over 200,000 euros on eBay.

Dogs can be pessimists. Though it’s unclear how common it is to see the water bowl as half-empty.

Click here for more surprising discoveries on Quartz.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, gourmet airline meals, and ethical cockfights to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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