Tesla plunge, HSBC’s choice, 4,000 big bangs

HSBC headquarters is seen at the financial Central district in Hong Kong, China September 6, 2017. REUTERS/Bobby Yip
HSBC headquarters is seen at the financial Central district in Hong Kong, China September 6, 2017. REUTERS/Bobby Yip
Image: Reuters/Bobby Yip

Good morning, Quartz readers!

Here’s what you need to know

HSBC reported earnings for 2020. The bank made $8.8 billion in profit before tax, a 34% fall from 2019 but still good enough for it to resume dividend payouts. But its future hangs in the balance—read more below.

More promising news on  Covid-19 vaccine efficacy. New data from the UK preliminarily shows one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech shot reduces infection risks by 72% after three weeks.

Elon Musk is no longer the world’s richest person… A plunge in Tesla shares wiped $15 billion from the CEO’s net worth after he tweeted that Bitcoin prices “do seem high.”

…while a Tesla rival is going public. California-based Lucid Motors will list on the NYSE by merging with a special purpose acquisition company.

Microsoft teams up with EU publishers. It wants to pay news organizations for content. Meanwhile, Facebook is backtracking on its decision last week to black out news links in Australia.

WeWork might be able to go public again. That’s if negotiations between the co-working space firm’s former CEO Adam Neumann and its majority shareholder SoftBank go well.

The failed Boeing 777 engine fell apart. Metal fatigue caused a fan blade to crack, according to a preliminary assessment by the US National Transportation Safety Board.

What to watch for

HSBC, which makes the bulk of its revenue in Asia, finds itself in the midst of a tug of war between China and the West. Regardless of the victor, the bank will likely lose. As Western politicians accuse it of doing China’s bidding in its fight to crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong and elsewhere, HSBC is left with a few not-so-great options.

💔 Break up: HSBC’s business model is built on the premise that the bank serves as a bridge between East and West, but an HSBC East listed on the UK’s exchange and an HSBC West listed in Hong Kong could tamp down any concerns over loyalty.

🧳 Find a new home: If restructuring the bank is a bit too nuclear for HSBC heads, they could always move operations and personnel to new locales, said one compliance expert in Hong Kong. But different cities carry different concerns: a move to Hong Kong or mainland China, for example, would likely anger the US.

🤷🏻‍♂️ Do nothing: It should be noted that other prominent banks have also done Beijing’s bidding from time to time. If HSBC figures that business on both sides of the Atlantic will eventually return to usual, it could wait until the whole kerfuffle blows over.

Charting the global garment workers’ struggle

For garment workers only getting by before the pandemic, life during Covid-19 has been difficult.

The gap keeps growing.
The gap keeps growing.

Without shoppers in the US or Europe buying as much, fashion companies canceled billions of dollars worth of orders. As long as this persists, the future of the backbone of the garment industry remains largely unclear. Brands don’t usually own factories or employ garment workers directly, but, if the pact made between three major garment manufacturer associations catches on, the imbalance of power could shift some towards workers.

A new bill for Kenyan loans

Mobile lending apps have become a go-to source of credit for Kenyans without traditional bank accounts, and a new bill seeks to clamp down on predatory loans and practices by licensing and regulating digital lending platforms in the country.

Since Safaricom’s M-Shwari debuted in 2012, the market has ballooned to include Silicon Valley-backed Tala and Branch, as well as Zenka, Opesa, and Okash, which is owned by the Norwegian software maker Opera.

While access to useful, responsible, and affordable financial products and services has risen in Kenya for more than a decade—and digital loan apps have further helped grant access to finance—the country’s unregulated app-based lenders have been accused of illegal data mining and shaming defaulters.

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The Big Bang is back. Using a supercomputer, scientists are making 4,000 simulations of the event to better understand our origins.

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Canadian butter needs to get better. Dairy authorities are starting their investigation into the too-firm product by looking at cows’ feed.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, lucid dream conversation transcripts, and acceptably soft butter to hi@qz.com. Get the most out of Quartz by downloading our iOS app and becoming a member. Today’s Daily Brief was brought to you by Jane Li, Mary Hui, Susan Howson and Jordan Lebeau.