From Apple's woes in China to Grammy highlights – Here are today's Headlines

Apple's revenue from China dropped 13% compared to last year, marking the worst performance since the 2018 holiday season.

From Apple's woes in China to Grammy highlights – Here are today's Headlines
A customer talks to sales assistants in an Apple store as Apple Inc's new iPhone 14 models go on sale in Beijing, China, September 16, 2022. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/File Photo

To start off, we're looking into:

Apple's tough time in China

The backstory: China is a major market for Apple, being its third-largest source of revenue, right after the US and Europe. Even though China is where Apple makes most of its products, the company is facing some challenges in the region. The latest iPhones, the 15 series, had a tough time selling. According to Jefferies analysts, sales were down 30% in the first week of 2024 compared to the previous year, with an overall 3% sales drop for all of 2023.

Adding to the mix, global politics are making things tricky. The US is limiting China's access to crucial tech, especially cutting-edge chips, and has imposed sanctions on major Chinese tech players like Huawei and SMIC, citing concerns about military applications of advanced chip tech. On the other hand, China reportedly directed its government workers not to use iPhones at work last year. It's part of a bigger plan to rely less on Apple products, underscoring tensions with the US and growing competition from China's own mobile giant, Huawei.

The development: Last week, Apple shared some good news – the company saw its first sales growth in a year, mainly thanks to a strong performance in the App Store and other services. But there's been a hiccup in China. Apple's revenue from China dropped 13% compared to last year, marking the worst performance since the 2018 holiday season. Click the link here for more.

Hong Kong airport upgrade delays

Hong Kong airport
Source: REUTERS/Bobby Yip

The backstory: In 2016, Hong Kong International Airport kicked off a big upgrade known as the Three-runway System (3RS) to make things more efficient. The project, costing around HK$141.5 billion (around US$18.1 billion), involves adding a new runway, creating a new travel zone and making extra taxiways. When it's all done, the airport aims to handle over 100 million passengers every year. 

Before COVID, Hong Kong's airport was a big deal, ranking third globally for international passengers and adding US$33 billion each year, around 10% of Hong Kong's GDP, according to the International Air Transport Association in 2018. But then, COVID happened, bringing restrictions and leading to airline staff cuts. Unlike Singapore and Japan, Hong Kong took it slower to ease those tough rules, like waiting until 2022 to lift hotel quarantine for new arrivals. Even now, the number of passengers coming through each month is still 25% less than before the pandemic.

The development: Hong Kong's mega billions airport expansion, initially planned to finish by the end of 2024, is reportedly facing delays. Click the link here for more.

Samsung’s Lee acquitted

Samsung Electronics Chairman Jay Y. Lee leaves a court in Seoul, South Korea, February 5, 2024. REUTERS/Kim Soo-hyeon

The backstory: For decades, South Korea's economy has been dominated by several family-run conglomerates that have a lot of money and political power. These families are known as chaebol. One of the biggest and most successful members is Samsung, which is also one of the world's biggest makers of tech like computer chips and smartphones. Jay Y. Lee (Lee Jae-yong), grandson of the company's founder, has been at the helm of Samsung Group since his late father, former chairman Lee Kun-hee, suffered a heart attack in 2014. He's also the country's richest person, according to Bloomberg. But Lee has faced lots of legal issues over the years.

More recently: In 2017, Lee was sentenced to five years on bribery charges. His sentence was then suspended, and he was released in 2018 pending a retrial. His initial sentence was later reduced at the retrial, and he was released on parole in 2021 with a five-year employment ban. But a full presidential pardon in 2022 meant he could again take his spot at the top of the Samsung Group.

But, in between Lee's retrial and release, he was indicted in 2020 for separate stock price manipulation and accounting fraud charges related to the 2015 merger. He wasn't arrested then because the court didn't issue an arrest warrant. 

The development: On Monday, Lee was found not guilty of the 2020 financial crimes charges by a Seoul Central District Court, with the judge saying there wasn't enough proof against Lee and 13 other current and former Samsung officials. Click the link here for more.

To end, we'll look into:

Grammys highlights

Show host Trevor Noah speaks during the 66th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, California, U.S., February 4, 2024. REUTERS/Mike Blake

The results are in! The 2024 Grammys were on Sunday, with all the big music stars, old and new, in attendance. Women largely dominated the award ceremony night with female artists winning the biggest awards. So read on for some notable events from the night.

All the Swifties will be happy to hear that Taylor Swift has made history once again, this time surpassing legends Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon and Frank Sinatra as the first artist to win best album four times. Swift previously won the award for “Fearless,” “1989,” “Folklore” and now “Midnights.” 

Not only did she break that record, but she also announced her new album to be released on April 19 called “The Tortured Poets Department.” She released the album cover on social media for all her fans to check out. Click the link here for more highlights from the event.

In other news ...


📉Market snapshot and key quotes:

  • In the US: US stocks closed lower on Monday due to rising Treasury yields and concerns about Fed rate cuts.
  • In Hong Kong: Hong Kong stocks fell on Monday on worries about China's economy. 

📊Top gainers/losers and company news:

  • In the US: McDonald’s tumbled over 3.7% after a mixed quarter report.
  • Boeing fell 1.3% due to a new problem with its 737 Max, when incorrectly drilled holes were found in the fuselage of about 50 undelivered planes.
  • In Hong Kong: Longfor lost over 4%, while Meituan gained 2.9%.

👀The numbers everyone is watching:

  • In the US: China will release PPI and CPI data this week.
  • In Hong Kong: The US will share wholesale inventories and jobless claims data.

📅To check out our economic calendar for this week, click here.

More headlines ...

📰Middle East update: Following the US air strikes over the weekend targeting Syria and Iraq, a US military base in Syria was attacked on Sunday, killing at least six Kurdish fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces and injuring at least 18 others. An Iran-backed militia has said that it attacked the base on Sunday. The back and forth follows a drone strike on a US base in Jordan late last month that killed three US soldiers. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also just arrived in the region with plans to visit Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, Israel and the West Bank and work on negotiations for a hostage-release and ceasefire deal. 

🗞️Ukraine/Russia update: Georgia's State Security Service said on Monday that it had seized a shipment of explosives hidden in a cargo of car batteries that was headed to the Russian city of Voronezh from the Ukrainian port of Odesa. Georgia said seven Georgian citizens, three Ukrainian nationals and two Armenian citizens were involved in the incident, which is under investigation.

In another update, US far-right journalist Tucker Carlson was spotted in Moscow attending a ballet, and now people are speculating that he's in the country to interview Russian President Vladimir Putin. When asked on Sunday by reporters if he was there to interview Putin, he smiled and said, "We'll see." Russian officials have not confirmed anything, though.

After more than a year of negotiations, tech company Yandex NV, aka "Russia's Google," has agreed to a 475 billion rubles (US$5.21 billion) cash and shares deal to be sold to multiple Russian investors. 

👨‍⚖️Malaysia's ex-PM jail sentence halved: In 2022, Malaysia's former PM Najib Razak was put in jail for charges of abusing his power and money laundering linked to an embezzlement case related to the country's wealth fund, 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). His prison sentence has now been halved from 12 years after the government approved his application to shorten his sentence. But, the government is now facing widespread criticism over the decision. 

⚽Messi's mess: In a highly-anticipated match this past weekend between Hong Kong and Inter Miami, Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez didn't play due to medical advice, leading to public outrage. Organizer Tatler XFEST has now withdrawn its application for a HK$16 million government grant (US$2.04 million) for the event. Despite thousands of requests for refunds for tickets to the event, the organizer hasn't officially said anything about this. Tatler said that it was only informed at halftime that the two players wouldn't participate, saying they had been listed before the match as substitutes and were expected to be fit to play. Hong Kong's sports minister said the initial agreement was that Messi would play for at least 45 minutes unless he was sick or injured. When they realized he wouldn't come off the bench, they attempted to get Messi to participate in another way, explaining to the crowd why he couldn't play or at least lift the trophy, but this request was disregarded.

📩El Salvador election outcome: El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele was re-elected by a landslide on Sunday. This is mainly due to his crackdown on crime and gangs in the country, which has liberated many communities and reduced homicide rates, making it one of Latin America's safest countries. Some are critical of his win because it's prohibited by the country's constitution for someone to serve as president for two consecutive terms. But an exception was made to that rule in 2021 as long as the candidate stepped aside for a period before the second term, which Bukele did a few weeks ago.

El Salvador Bukele
El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele, who is running for reelection, and his wife Gabriela de Bukele show their inked fingers during the presidential and parliamentary elections in San Salvador, El Salvador, February 4, 2024. REUTERS/Jessica Orellana

👮‍♀️Singapore's dangerous offender law: On Monday, Singapore passed a new law that applies to "dangerous offenders" above 21 convicted of crimes like culpable homicide, rape and sex with minors, who are said to be at risk of reoffending if released. The new law lets the government hold these people indefinitely, even after their jail sentence has ended, until the home affairs minister decides they aren't a public threat. If they're found unfit for release, their case will be reviewed each year.

💣Taiwan's new missiles: Taiwan is set to receive 50 air-to-ground missiles from the US by 2028 to boost the capabilities of its F-16V fighter jets. This was part of an arms sales package in 2017 under the Trump administration. 

🥼King Charles diagnosed with cancer: Buckingham Palace announced on Monday that King Charles III was diagnosed with cancer discovered during a recent prostate procedure. But Buckingham Palace did say it's not prostate cancer without elaborating on what type of cancer it is. He'll step down from his public-facing duties while receiving treatment.

King Charles cancer
Undated handout photo provided by Buckingham Palace on February 5, 2024 of King Charles during the state tour of France in September 2023. The King has been diagnosed with a form of cancer and has begun a schedule of regular treatments, and while he has postponed public duties he "remains wholly positive about his treatment", Buckingham Palace said. Samir Hussein/Buckingham Palace/Handout via REUTERS

🧑‍⚖️Australian writer sentenced to death: An Australian writer, Yang Hengjun, has received a suspended death sentence in China five years after he was arrested for suspicion of espionage. The Australian government said it's "appalled" at this and would be communicating with Beijing on the matter. The suspended sentence means it could be changed to life in prison after two years. 

✂️Snap job cuts: Social media companies have recently seen a slump in ad revenue, and now Snap is the latest to announce a round of job cuts. Snap plans to reduce its workforce by 10% worldwide, with a spokesperson saying the tech firm will also shuffle up the team to reduce hierarchy and promote in-person collaboration.

🏫Hong Kong universities: Hong Kong's eight public universities saw a 7.6% increase in academic staff departures last year, with a total of 380 leaving their jobs, according to official data. This is the highest turnover rate in more than 20 years. But, there are different reasons for staff leaving, whether it was by their own decision or the university.

👑Miss Japan gives up her crown: Karolina Shiino, Ukrainian-born but a Japanese citizen, was crowned Miss Japan in January, which brought up a lot of heated discussion about what it means to be (and look) Japanese. She has given up her title after facing backlash over her foreign roots and a magazine reporting on her relationship with a married man. Organizers have said the title will stay vacant for the rest of the year.

Miss Japan
Karolina Shiino, the winner of the Miss Japan 2024, poses with other prize winners at the contest in Tokyo, Japan January 22, 2024. Miss Japan Association/Handout via REUTERS

Quiz Time!

What major Asian tech company is Jay Y. Lee, who was just acquitted of financial charges, the face of?

  1. Alibaba
  2. Samsung
  3. Nvidia
  4. Tencent

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Written and put together by Joey Fung, Alisha Khan and Christine Dulion

**The answer to the quiz is [2]