Amazon’s tax victory, Alibaba makes waves, Voyager hears waves

Amazon found a way out of its tax bill.
Amazon found a way out of its tax bill.
Image: Reuters/Gonzalo Fuentes

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Here’s what you need to know

Amazon won an EU tax bill challenge. A court overturned a 2017 European Commission ruling that the US e-commerce giant owed €250 million ($300 million) to Luxembourg.

US tariffs on Chinese goods have reshaped imports. Data show US companies are sourcing more from other Asian countries, rather than domestic factories, as Chinese imports dropped off.

Japan’s vaccine reservations were disrupted by a Salesforce glitch. Eleven municipalities were unable to process online appointments for five hours.

A former Chinese official was slapped with US sanctions. The State Department announced visa restrictions over the official’s persecution of Falun Gong. Separately, the US’s annual report on religious freedom singled out China’s human rights violations in Xinjiang, while Western governments and rights groups rebuked the country’s treatment of Uyghurs at a UN event.

The International Olympic Committee gave a vote of confidence for the Tokyo games. Officials said it will be “an historic moment,” but with the city still under a state of emergency and star athletes like Naomi Osaka voicing concern, the Olympics are looking shakier.

SoftBank posted record-breaking profits. The conglomerate’s annual net income was nearly $46 billion, the largest ever for a Japanese company. While SoftBank made a tidy sum off its stake in Coupang, the South Korean e-commerce firm’s first earnings report since going public failed to impress investors.

Oyo is shifting to a four-day workweek. The CEO of the India-based hospitality company announced in a tweet that employees will now have Wednesdays off.

What to watch for

Alibaba reports earnings today for the quarter and fiscal year ended in March. While the e-commerce giant is expected to deliver strong results as consumers are recovering from the pandemic, investors will be watching closely for clues on several issues:

🐜  Ant Group: Alibaba owns one-third of the fintech giant, whose IPO was suspended by Beijing in November days before its market debut. Ant has since been ordered to revamp its business to focus on its original payment roots. As part of its earnings, Alibaba will report Ant’s contribution to its overall profit in the quarter ended in December, from which Ant’s profit for the period can be calculated. (Ant’s earnings reports lag one quarter behind Alibaba’s.)

👨‍⚖️  Regulatory risks: Similar to Ant, Alibaba has been at the centre of Beijing’s antitrust storm towards big tech. Last month, Alibaba was fined $2.8 billion for its monopolistic practices, including “pick one from two.” Alibaba’s executives could offer more color on whether there will be more regulatory scrutiny from authorities.

📺  Alibaba’s media empire. Beijing reportedly told Alibaba to offload some of its most prominent media assets, including Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post for concerns about the firm’s expanding influence in affecting public opinion. As the company has yet to announce sale of its stakes in those entities, analysts are expected to raise this issue with the executives.

Charting used car prices in the US

Americans are starting to travel around again as pandemic restrictions ease, and the extra demand for cars is hitting at a time when supply is tight. Many manufacturing plants shut down early on in the pandemic as governments struggled to contain the virus. And although car makers have been reopening their assembly lines since then, they have been slowed by a variety of supply chain constraints.

A key snag has been the ongoing shortage of computer chips, which is creating delays and prompting another round of plant closures. With fewer new cars in the market, US consumers have been turning to used-car lots, driving prices higher.

A line chart showing US used car prices since January 2020, with a big spike starting March 2021.

Leadership lessons don’t always come easy

And if, for whatever reason, one day I wasn’t dancing when I’m in the dry cleaners or I didn’t smile at somebody, it’s like, “Oh, did that affect somebody? Was that what they meant?” And I don’t know but I know that I’m just a person with a lot of different emotions and I struggle with depression and with anxiety.

Ellen DeGeneres is ending her daytime talk show in 2022 after a 19-year run that included a lot of dancing at first and later was mired in controversy. She says she’s learned at least one important lesson as a result of recent criticisms—our behavior can have a big impact on others.

It may seem like a no-brainer, but power tends to make people’s empathy decrease as their influence increases. Sarah Todd takes a look at what we can all learn from Ellen’s experience.

✦ Sarah has a knack for seeing opportunities for improvement within the workplace—she’s even found a better word for “team.” Read more of her findings at Quartz At Work. Tired of paywalls? Try a membership free for a week!

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Surprising discoveries

Brain implants allow a paralyzed man to text his thoughts. A new technique taps into the cognitive signals associated with handwriting.

A rare calico-colored lobster was saved from the dinner pot. The 1-in-30 million crustacean is now headed to an aquarium.

An Australian woman started speaking with an Irish accent after having her tonsils removed. She has never been to Ireland.

Playing with a therapy dog keeps stress levels low for weeks. Turns out the benefits of belly rubs last longer than previously thought.

Voyager has been recording plasma waves in interstellar space. NASA’s longest-running mission is still making new discoveries.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, special edition lobsters, and Ellen dances to 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, Ana Campoy, Sarah Todd, Liz Webber, and Susan Howson.