Good morning, and welcome to Wednesday. Here’s what you need to know:
- There’s growing attention on a new, very plausible theory about the disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines jet: that a fire started in the cockpit, progressively shutting down the electronics and knocking the pilots unconscious, allowing the plane to fly for hours while emitting its minimal signals. Here’s what pilots think of the idea – opinions are split.
- Assistant Treasurer Arthur Sinodinos could stand aside from his ministerial post after being dragged into a NSW corruption investigation looking at his involvement with Australian Water Holdings, which was part-owned by the Obeid family. Sinodinos was on the board, and it had a contract with Sydney water that covered AWH’s expenses. It gets messy from there, with AWH charging claims for limos and corporate boxes back to Sydney Water. The focus of the ICAC inquiry is on the company’s efforts to engage politicians and build support for a PPP that would have been worth about $200 million to AWH. The PM and senior frontbenchers are standing by Sinodinos, he says he’ll be vindicated, and there’s no corruption allegation made against him by the inquiry.
- This is all terrible timing for Sinodinos, as the government is seeking to push through his proposed changes to Labor’s Future of Financial Advice reforms. The financial industry as a whole has been enthusiastic about the rollback of certain consumer protections – unsettlingly so, you’d say – but there are cracks starting to emerge. The Financial Planning Association is opposed to the government’s proposed allowance of commissions on investment and superannuation products. In the industry jargon it clears the way for “vertical integration”; what it means for actual people is that advisors at large banks will have huge incentives to upsell you to their own company’s investment strategies without having to account for your whole financial situation.
- Members of Clive Palmer’s political party are starting to tire of his “bullshit and razzmatazz”, reports the Courier-Mail. Amen.
- Vladimir Putin gave an important speech declaring Crimea part of Russia last night, and if anything it has further stoked tensions with the West. Ian Bremmer of the Eurasia Group, which predicted the Crimea annexation, says there’s a real chance that Putin does not see a way to resolve peacefully the questions over Ukraine’s government.
- A Chinese property developer, Zhejiang Xingrun Real Estate Co, is heading for default on around $US400 million in loans, increasing concerns about systemic financial problems in corporate China and in its property sector.
- Google announced plans to bring Android to smartwatches overnight, on what it calls Android Wear. It has some concepts of what the watches might look like. It’s an area that’s getting interesting now, with Samsung already out of the gate, approaching its second generation device already, and Apple planning to launch a smartwatch this year.
- Activist investor Carl Icahn has been picking a fight with eBay, singling out Marc Andreessen, the Netscape founder, for criticism as a terrible board member. Andreessen has published a blog post with an extract from an old magazine article which accuses Icahn of having “killed an entire airline”, TWA, by stripping it of assets.
- Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce behemoth that handles more goods than eBay and Amazon combined (!), and is 24% owned by Yahoo! will kick off its IPO process on March 25th. It’s being called the most hotly-anticipated tech IPO since Facebook.
- The new Star Wars sequel, Episode Seven, will start shooting in May and is scheduled for release at the end of next year.
Bonus item: Hopefully you’ve seen this fascinating reinvention of the humble door already. News: you’ll be able to buy them.
Have a great day. I’m on Twitter: @colgo
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