Good morning, Quartz readers!
The US Senate considers AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner. Company bosses will try to persuade the judiciary committee that the $100 billion-plus deal will increase competition. Tech billionaire Mark Cuban will also testify that the deal will create a new competitor for Facebook and Google.
Shell and Total sign oil deals with Iran. An Iranian ministry official said the companies will sign the initial agreements today to develop oil and gas fields in the country. These are the first two oil-development deals with European companies since sanctions against Iran were loosened in January.
Ghanaians elect a new president. Voters in West Africa’s second-biggest economy will decide between challenger Nana Akufo-Addo and incumbent John Mahama; the close-run race is expected to inspire high turnout.
TIME names its Person of the Year. The shortlist includes Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and Beyoncé. Bookies say Trump is the prohibitive favorite.
Foxconn eyed US expansion. The Taiwanese manufacturer that assembles iPhones didn’t reveal the size of its planned investment (paywall), nor which sector it would focus on—its portfolio includes robotics, e-commerce, and health care. It is Trump-related? Probably: The president-elect has urged Apple to bring production back to the US, and most of Foxconn’s work for Apple is done in its factories in China.
Pfizer was fined for overcharging the British national health service. The pharma giant faces a penalty of £84.2 million ($106 million) for hiking the price of an anti-epilepsy drug. The NHS spent £50 million on the drug in 2013 alone. The consumer watchdog accused Pfizer of exploitation; the company said it will appeal.
Italian bank stocks soared on rumors of a cash injection. After La Stampa newspaper reported that Rome would request €15 billion ($16 billion) from the EU’s bailout fund for beleaguered Monte Dei Paschi, shares in the bank leapt (paywall) by more than 10%. EU and Italian officials later denied such a request was in the pipeline, so ¯_(ツ)_/¯.
India’s central bank surprisingly kept its rates unchanged. With the economy sputtering from demonetization, analysts were expecting the Reserve Bank to slash its benchmark interest rate, but instead it held it steady at 6.25%.
Ikea had a great 2016. The Swedish furniture reported a 20% rise in profit (pawyall), to $4.5 billion, in the year to August, with growth across all of its markets (and China in particular). Ikea said it would invest $1 billion to bolster the environmental sustainability of its supply chain, and announced a plan to introduce smaller stores and city-center pick-up points.
South Korea went after Volkswagen. The aftershocks from VW’s emissions-cheating scandal are lingering like diesel fumes: South Korean authorities will file criminal charges and impose a $32 million fine (paywall) on the company and five executives for false advertising. Sales of VW cars have been suspended in the country since August.
Josh Horwitz on the US companies and states that will suffer most if US-China relations worsen: “Any trade war that introduced new tariffs on US goods sold in China or made it more difficult for US companies to do business there would hurt some profoundly. In the aggregate, US soybean farmers, auto makers, and aircraft companies export the most to China.” Read more here.
Beijing will be the real winner if Facebook enters China. Censoring content in exchange for market access would be a Pyrrhic victory for Mark Zuckerberg.
The West’s center-left is in free fall. François Hollande’s unpopularity in France is a sign of the times, mirroring the fate of ideologically similar counterparts throughout the western hemisphere.
America is suffering an innovation slump. High hurdles for transforming ideas into commercially viable products is stalling significant improvements (paywall) in everyday life.
David Bowie is treating Buzz Aldrin in a New Zealand hospital. The astronaut’s doctor shares a name with the late rock star who wrote the song “Space Oddity.”
Polar sea ice the size of India has disappeared. Greenhouse gases, the El Niño weather event, and freak natural swings are all possible culprits.
The speed of light may be slowing down. Some scientists believe the supposed constant was faster in the early moments of the universe.
JPMorgan’s new credit card is too popular. The premium Sapphire Reserve card will reduce the bank’s quarterly profits by up to $300 million, thanks to its lavish perks.
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