From HSBC's China bank hit to "The Art of the Celestials" – Here are today's Headlines

HSBC is one of the biggest banks in the world, initially starting out in Hong Kong, with its headquarters now based in London.

From HSBC's China bank hit to "The Art of the Celestials" – Here are today's Headlines
The logo of HSBC is seen on its headquarters in the financial Central district in Hong Kong, China, Aug. 4, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo

To start off, we're looking into:

HSBC earnings and China bank hit

The backstory: HSBC is one of the biggest banks in the world, initially starting out in Hong Kong, with its headquarters now based in London. It has a big focus on business in Asia, which is where it makes most of its profit. In fact, its pivot to Asia has led to it selling parts or all of its business in other places in the world, including France, Greece, Russia and Canada.  

Although China is still the world's second-largest economy, it's been facing a real estate crisis, a drop in manufacturing and slow economic recovery since the pandemic. This has led to losses for global banks doing business in the region, like HSBC and Standard Chartered. For example, Standard Chartered announced a credit impairment charge last year of US$294 million – and that included a US$186 million charge related to China's real estate sector.

The development: On Wednesday, HSBC released an earnings report detailing a record-high annual profit. Despite results coming in lower than analysts had predicted, its pre-tax profits sat at US$30.3 billion for 2023 – a 78% increase on the previous year. But, the company was hit by a US$3 billion charge on its 19% stake in China's Bank of Communications (BoCom). Click the link here for more.

Neuralink human trial
Neuralink logo and Elon Musk silhouette are seen in this illustration taken, December 19, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

The backstory: Neuralink, a brainchild of Elon Musk founded back in 2016, is on a mission to merge brains with computers. The concept is all about letting people control devices using just their thoughts. Imagine being able to type or move a cursor without lifting a finger. Neuralink's ultimate goal is to assist people dealing with conditions like paralysis, blindness or epilepsy by directly linking their brains to this technology.

More recently: Last month, Musk announced that Neuralink had successfully pulled off its first human implantation surgery. He also revealed Neuralink's first product, Telepathy, aimed at people with limb disabilities. "Imagine if Stephen Hawking could communicate faster than a speed typist or auctioneer. That is the goal," he wrote, referring to Telepathy.

During these trials, surgeons implant a tiny chip into the part of the brain that controls movement with precise robotic surgery. This chip captures brain signals, allowing users to interact with computers or devices through an app. Initially, the focus is on basic tasks like moving a cursor or typing using only thoughts.

The development: On Monday, Musk announced that the first person in its human trial could control a computer mouse using only their thoughts. Click the link here for more.

US startup Teamshares heads to Japan

Teamshares Japan
A man uses a laptop on a street at a business district in Tokyo, Japan January 23, 2024. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

The backstory: Japan's got quite a big problem on its hands. Being a country with one of the world's oldest populations, passing on the reins in small businesses to a successor has long been a headache, especially with fewer children interested in taking on the family business once their parents are ready to retire. And, despite efforts like the M&A Research Institute's AI-powered matchmaking initiatives, the problem's been tough to crack.

This is where Teamshares, a US startup from Brooklyn, comes in. The idea? Helping workers become shareholders of a business by providing financial support. Essentially, Teamshares buys out the company from the start so the owner can retire, and then it hires new management and gives the employees an 80% stake over a timespan as long as 20 years. The goal is to boost the value of the business by making its workers part owners.

The development: Teamshares has announced its expansion into Japan, marking its first international foray. With backing from Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Japan's top bank, it aims to shake things up for Japanese owners struggling to find a successor. Click the link here for more.

To end, we'll look into:

“The Art of Celestials”

Dickie Suzuki The Art of Celestials Hong Kong
Source: Dickie Suzuki

Hong Kong has a vast collection of art and cultural exhibitions for people to visit, and one that may have flown under the radar is Dickie Fowler’s (aka Dickie Suzuki) “The Art of Celestials,” which is currently on show at the HKCACC Gallery in Sheung Wan until February 25. The exhibition is made up of 35 portraits of deities taken by Suzuki as he captured the magical stories behind each.  

A British photographer but video producer by trade, Suzuki has lived in Hong Kong since 1989. When the pandemic hit, he was left without much work and decided to turn back to his passion for photography. 

“I was satiating my wanderlust by traveling to all the places in Hong Kong that I hadn’t been,” Suzuki said to SCMP. “I hadn’t realized what I’d missed until I started looking deliberately.” Click the link here for more.

In other news ...


📉Market snapshot and key quotes:

  • In the US: US stocks slipped for a third straight day on Wednesday as investors waited for Nvidia's earnings after the bell.
  • In Hong Kong: Hong Kong stocks closed higher on Wednesday as investors waited on Nvidia’s much-anticipated earnings report and the release of Fed meeting minutes.

📊Top gainers/losers and company news:

  • In the US: Nvidia’s earnings came after the market closed, and the company beat expectations, with its total revenue rising 265% from a year ago because of the AI boom. Its shares rose about 10% in extended trading.
  • Palo Alto Networks tumbled over 28% after revising its full-year revenue forecast downward.
  • SolarEdge Technologies dropped over 12% due to disappointing Q1 guidance.
  • In Hong Kong: Meituan saw a nearly 5% increase, while Xiaomi gained 2.9%, surged by 2.7%, and both Tencent and Alibaba saw gains of over 1%.

👀The numbers everyone is watching:

  • In the US: No specific events later this week. 
  • In Hong Kong: China will release China property prices this week. 

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

More headlines ...

📰Russia/Ukraine update: We've been reporting this week about the events after the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in an Arctic penal colony. Navalny's widow, Yulia Navalnaya, accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of killing her husband. Although the Kremlin denied this, a human rights group's leader has said that he thinks Navalny could have been killed with a punch to the heart, a "hallmark of the KGB," after being left outside in temperatures of -27 C (-16.6 F). The UK's Foreign Office has put sanctions against six of the colony's prison managers, freezing their assets and banning them from entering the UK. The EU also introduced a 13th package of sanctions against companies accused of supporting Russia's war effort against Ukraine, but for the first time, they're targeting Chinese and Indian companies with alleged links to the war effort. 

A training area occupied by Russia in eastern Ukraine was hit by two missiles, killing at least 60 Russian troops, according to reports. But, a Russian official said the strikes were "grossly exaggerated." Former UK PM Boris Johnson has also withdrawn from a debate with Fox News' ex-host, Tucker Carlson, following Navalny's death. Johnson previously agreed to the debate for a US$1 million fee, which his team says would have gone to charities for Ukrainian veterans. Carlson set up the debate after Johnson denounced his recent interview with Putin and essentially called him a Russian stooge.

As the war enters its third year, Ukraine's infantry is beginning to face problems as they are running out of soldiers and ammunition. One platoon commander estimated that just 60-70% remain of the men the brigade had at the start, as many had been killed, wounded or relieved for things like illness and old age. 

🚜Poland's farmer blockade: Farmer protests blocking the Polish border with Ukraine have caused major delays to 7,000 trucks entering Poland from Ukraine and 2,500 going the other direction. The blockade is over prices being pushed down due to the tariff-free imports of Ukrainian grain and other foods. Urgent talks between Poland and Ukraine were also due on Wednesday as alarming slogans in support of Putin appeared at the farmers' protest. The country's foreign ministry believes it could be the work of extremist groups hijacking the protest for their own cause "perhaps under the influence of Russian agents."  

🗞️Middle East update: At least two people were killed in a suspected Israeli missile strike that hit a block of flats in Syria's capital, Damascus, according to Syrian state media. Also, in recent weeks, the US, Qatar and Egypt have had talks to implement a temporary ceasefire on the Israel/Gaza war, but after a proposal was made, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu refused to accept and vowed to continue his ultimate goal of "complete victory." The UN Security Council has also failed to pass a draft for a ceasefire twice, as the US vetoed the resolutions. The US argues it would complicate its ongoing efforts for a hostage deal, but China, Russia, France and Algeria have heavily criticized this move. The US has instead proposed a resolution for a ceasefire that is directly linked to the release of hostages held by Hamas.

Israel has reportedly stepped up its offensive in Gaza's southern town of Rafah, and residents said one strike killed over a dozen members of one family. The Israeli army said it had stepped up operations in Khan Younis, which is north of Rafah, without mentioning any actions in Rafah directly. About 1.5 million people are thought to be sheltering in Rafah from the violence.

📢Indian farmer protests: Over the last week in India, tens of thousands of farmers have been protesting and advancing towards the country's capital, New Delhi. Just a few days ago, the movement's leader, Jagjit Singh Dallewal, said the farmers would hold off their march as government ministers talked with union leaders on Sunday about the group's demands. But they failed to come to an agreement. The farmers have now continued to move towards the capital, and the police are allegedly firing pellets at the protestors, causing injury and sending people to hospitals. The police have denied this, but human rights groups have written to India's Supreme Court's chief justice on the issue.

🌾India's rice export tax: India is one of the world's biggest rice exporters, but it's had an export tax on parboiled rice products to control domestic prices. The tax was set to expire on March 31, but it's now been extended indefinitely ahead of the country's general elections. The 20% export tax will likely have the biggest effect on some countries in West Africa and the Middle East, which rely heavily on the nation for their rice supplies. 

✈️Boeing Max shuffle: Aircraft giant Boeing has been facing a lot of struggles in recent years with its 737 Max line of airplanes, with the most recent incident making headlines after a part of a Boeing plane's fuselage blew off shortly after it took off. On Wednesday, Boeing announced the chief of its 737 Max program, 18-year company veteran Ed Clark, is departing and will be replaced by Katie Ringgold. It also said the newly created post of senior vice president for quality in the commercial division will be filled by Elizabeth Lund. 

🚢Australia to build biggest navy:  Amid rising tensions in the Pacific region, Australia has decided to invest an additional AU$11.1 billion (US$7.2 billion) into its navy, more than doubling its size, which will make it the largest fleet Australia's seen since the second world war. 

👶China's childcare costs: China's population fell last year for the second year in a row, and the country has also been dealing with low birth rates. A report from the YuWa Population Research think tank showed that childcare costs in the country are some of the highest in the world. This has deterred women from having children as they struggle to balance work and family life.

💐Daiso founder has died: Hirotake Yano, billionaire and founder of Japanese discount retail chain Daiso, has died at 80 due to heart failure, according to a statement released on Monday. In 1972, Yano opened his first discount retailer and was considered a pioneer of the dollar shop business model. Yano said the idea came about because he and his wife found pricing all the shop items time-consuming, so they eventually decided to just charge 100 yen for everything. 

💇‍♀️Beyoncé's haircare brand: Celebrities have been branching out with their own brands, for example, Lady Gaga's Haus Labs or Rihanna's Fenty cosmetics line. Now, global star Beyoncé Knowles has released a haircare line called Cécred, which was inspired by her mother, who owned a hair salon where Knowles used to sweep up hair as a kid.

🎤Blackpink's Jisoo's BLISSOO: Following in the footsteps of her fellow band members from the world-renowned K-pop band Blackpink, Jisoo has reportedly established her own agency with her brother called BLISSOO. 

🦀Save the horseshoe crabs: Horseshoe crabs, which date back to before the dinosaur days, are known as "living fossils" – but they're facing a lot of danger in modern days, including the loss of breeding habitats, getting caught in fishing nets and being hunted by humans. There are four species in the world, and two of them (the Chinese and the mangrove horseshoe crab) live in Hong Kong waters. The Ocean Park Conservation Foundation has just launched a pilot program to track and study the crabs and their breeding patterns to help ensure their survival in the wild. The team released the first batch of tagged crabs into Tung Chung Bay on Wednesday.

Horseshoe crab
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Quiz Time!

HSBC reported a hit on its recent earnings report because of its 19% stake in which Chinese bank?

  1. China Construction Bank
  2. The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China
  3. China's Bank of Communications
  4. Agricultural Bank of China

Enjoying our TMS Headlines?

Forward it to a friend! After all, sharing is caring.

Anything else? Hit reply to send us feedback or say hello. We don't bite!

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

**The answer to the quiz is [3]