What to watch for today
Big pharma reports end-of-year results. Drugs maker AbbVie announces its first results after dropping a $55 billion buyout of Ireland’s Shire in October. Eli Lilly investors will want to see the company recovering from its “patent cliff.”
Shake Shack IPOs. The cult burger chain could raise over $105 million and be valued at more than $700 million when it lists on the NYSE. Restaurant IPOs have a history of outperforming on their launch day, meaning shares could be super-sized by the end of the day.
Will ISIL act on hostage threats? The terrorist group’s deadline for killing a Jordanian hostage if an Iraqi prisoner is not released was sunset Thursday. Jordanian authorities said the Iraqi prisoner is still in detention. ISIL is still holding Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, after it postponed its threat to execute him earlier this week.
Numbers, numbers, numbers. Companies reporting earnings today include MasterCard, Chevron, and Mattel.
While you were sleeping
Honda paid dearly for its Takata recalls. The Japanese auto maker’s fiscal third-quarter net profit fell 15.1% from a year earlier (paywall) to 136.5 billion yen ($1.2 billion), despite a rise in revenue. That was due to increased costs from recalling cars to replace Takata-made airbags, which can rupture (paywall).
Qatar Airways bought a stake in British Airways. The state-owned Qatari airline purchased 9.99% of BA’s parent IAG, valued at around £1.15 billion ($1.73 billion). The purchase comes as IAG itself is bidding for Ireland’s flag carrier Aer Lingus.
Russia’s central bank reversed course. It cut its benchmark interest rate to 15%, from 17%, partly reversing a big and unexpected hike intended to defend the ruble last month. Bank officials said that the cut is aimed at “averting the sizeable decline in economic activity.” GDP is expected to fall by more than 3% in the first half of this year.
Singtel announced a Netflix competitor. The Singaporean telecom has partnered with Warner Bros and Sony Pictures to bring Hollywood movies, American TV, and local programming to India, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Singapore. Named “Hooq,” the service will charge users through Singtel’s billing network.
Spotify could be valued at $8 billion. The music streaming service has hired Goldman Sachs to raise around $500 million privately, making it less likely the Swedish company will IPO this year, the Financial Times reported (paywall). Spotify’s paid subscriber base grew 20% to 15 million in the last two months of 2014.
Euro zone deflation deepened. Consumer prices fell 0.6% in January from a year earlier, surpassing estimates of a 0.5% fall and deeper than December’s 0.2% drop. That’s not likely to change the European Central Bank’s policies—it just announced a big quantitative easing program.
Japanese inflation narrowly missed expectations. Low oil prices meant consumer prices—excluding fresh food and the effects of the sales tax rise—rose by just 0.5% in December from a year earlier. That’s short of expectations of a 0.6% rise, and some analysts believe oil prices could drag inflation to zero within six months (paywall).
Quartz obsession interlude
Alice Truong on the Bay Area’s organic marijuana movement. “San Francisco is a town full of snobs. People who live here expect restaurants to accommodate their local, organic, sustainable, vegan, gluten-free, no-MSG, Paleo diets. And when they go shopping for weed at posh dispensaries, they also expect variety: pre-rolled joints, flowers, concentrates, brownies, cookies, caramel corn, cheese crackers, pretzels, you name it.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
Google needs to work harder for its investors. Nobody expects mega-growth, but it is time to issue a dividend.
Benjamin Netanyahu is rudderless. The Israeli prime minister snubbed his friends because he can’t deal with his enemies.
Snapchat is out of the friend zone. Its new media-sharing feature, called Discover, makes it look a lot like the future of mobile content consumption.
The Silk Road bust has been great for internet drug dealers. Publicly shutting it down let millions know drugs are easy to buy online.
It is time to take Russia, China and the Arab world’s media seriously. They’re not pushing propaganda, they’re a valid counterweight to the dominance of Western media.
Greece’s new far-left government will change Europe. Other countries will be inspired not to play by the EU’s rules.
Public transportation should be free. Recent experiments with the concept in Estonia and Singapore show it can work.
John Kerry was fined for not shoveling snow. The secretary of state will pay $50 for not clearing the sidewalk in front of his Boston home.
The “V-steam” is now a thing. Gwyneth Paltrow’s blog Goop recommends women sit down for a “mugwort steam [that] cleanses your uterus, et al.”
A coder unveiled the world’s smallest computer chess game. The program takes up just 487 bytes.
Taylor Swift is trademarking lyrics. You can no longer make money from the phrase “party like it’s 1989” in the US.
A TV crew got locked in Auschwitz. The leader of Rome’s Jewish community was making a show when his crew discovered they couldn’t get out.
Scientists used stem cells to grow hair. It’s the first step in a stem-based cure for baldness.