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Quartz Daily Brief—Europe and Africa edition—Softbank’s Alibaba sell-off, Abe’s tax delay, ice cream wars

By Quartz

What to watch for today

The world’s longest rail tunnel opens. The 57 km (35 mile) Gotthard base tunnel beneath the Swiss Alps will cut transit times along one of Europe’s busiest transport corridors. Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s Francois Hollande will attend the opening ceremony and discuss Switzerland’s relationship with the EU.

Airline chiefs meet in Dublin. Security, oil prices, and the global economy will be discussed at the annual general meeting of the International Air Transport Association, which reported yesterday that passenger demand in April rose at its slowest rate since January 2015.

Brazil’s woes deepen. Latin America’s largest economy is expected to shrink for the fifth straight quarter, in the country’s worst recession since the 1930s. A crippling political crisis has stalled investments, while high unemployment is dragging down consumer spending.

While you were sleeping

A slight hitch in Abenomics. To avoid damaging the fragile economy, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe announced a delay, of two and a half years, to his planned sales tax hike. Opposition parties, who lost a no-confidence vote against Abe’s cabinet on Tuesday, blame his policies for rising inequality and poverty.

Softbank is selling a big chunk of Alibaba shares. The Japanese tech giant said it would offload $7.9 billion worth of Alibaba stock to raise capital, reducing its ownership stake from 32% to 28%. About $2.4 billion will be sold back to Alibaba, with the rest going to institutional investors.

Australia reported strong economic growth. In the first quarter the economy grew 1.1% over the previous quarter and 3.1% over the past year, beating expectations. Strong exports and household consumption helped fuel the fastest quarterly growth since March 2012.

South Korean exports tumbled. Outbound shipments fell 6% year-on-year in May, worse than expectations of an 0.4% drop. That follows and even harsher April, when exports fell 11.2% from the previous year.

Quartz markets haiku

One-point-five percent
That’s the market’s gain for May
Third straight monthly rise

Quartz obsession interlude

Introducing the beasts of Silicon Valley. “Being a unicorn is no longer something that sets a company apart. We dug deep into mythology to identify fantastical creatures that reflect the increasingly diverse herd of tech companies.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

You’re going to marry the wrong person. It’s better to be a pessimist (paywall) when it comes to marriage.

The alliance between US businesses and the Republican party is in shambles. It was undone by Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

Facebook should ditch Peter Thiel, but it won’t. They have both effectively declared war on journalism.

Surprising discoveries

An ex-CEO who sold his business for $2 billion is driving an Uber. It’s just a nice way to meet people.

Selling ice cream in New York is a tough business. Two rivals are waging a violent turf war (paywall).

Most people actually like to go to work. India has the world’s happiest employees, followed by Mexico.

Beware the octopi. Along with their squid and cuttlefish cousins, they are thriving amid climate change.

Scientists can analyze your breath to tell what movie you’re watching. The chemicals you emit are different for dramas and comedies.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, movie breathalyzers, and ice cream truces to You can download our iPhone app or follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day.