FirstFT: Microsoft’s big bet on AI

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Good morning. Microsoft has confirmed a “multibillion-dollar investment” in ChatGPT bot maker OpenAI, making its biggest bet yet that artificial intelligence systems have the power to transform the tech giant’s business model and products.

Precise financial details have not been disclosed, though the company on Monday said it was investing billions of dollars in a “multiyear” agreement. People familiar with the talks previously said OpenAI was seeking $10bn from Microsoft at a $29bn valuation.

The deal comes just a few days after Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella announced plans to shed 10,000 workers — or nearly 5 per cent of its staff — in an effort to cut costs in response to the tech downturn.

However, the stake in OpenAI comes with a belief that AI represents a technology that could transform Microsoft, helping it develop new “productivity” software alongside its Office applications and even renewing its challenge for market share against Google in search.

The deal also secures Microsoft’s position as exclusive cloud computing provider to one of the world’s leading AI start-ups, in a boost to its Azure cloud business.

1. China celebrates lunar new year as Covid infections hit 80% A top government epidemiologist has played down the possibility of a renewed wave of cases over the lunar new year period, saying that about 80 per cent of China’s population has already been infected with Covid-19.

  • Go deeper: Rural China is running short of Covid drugs as cases expand into isolated areas amid bureaucratic inefficiency, pricing disputes with pharmaceutical companies and overspending on testing capacity.

2. Ex-FBI agent charged over ties with Deripaska Charles McGonigal, a former high-ranking FBI agent, has been charged with violating US sanctions and engaging in money laundering by working for Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska and helping him investigate a rival. Sergey Shestakov, a 69-year-old former Russian diplomat turned US citizen, was charged alongside McGonigal for helping Deripaska.

3. Citadel breaks records with $16bn profit Ken Griffin’s Citadel last year made the biggest dollar gain by a hedge fund in history — a haul that establishes his company as the most successful of all time. Citadel, which manages $54bn in assets, made a 38.1 per cent return in its main hedge fund and strong gains in other products last year, equating to a record $16bn profit for investors after fees, according to research by LCH Investments, run by Edmond de Rothschild.

4. China is ‘barrier’ to ending Zambian debt crisis, says Yellen US Treasury secretary Janet Yellen called on China to agree to a rapid restructuring of loans to Zambia, saying Beijing was a “barrier” to ending the debt crisis in the southern African nation. Yellen, speaking in the Zambian capital Lusaka during her 10-day tour of Africa, said she hoped for progress from China on a deal that had “taken far too long already to resolve”.

5. Suspected Los Angeles gunman takes own life Huu Can Tran, 72, suspected of killing 10 people and injuring 10 more in the Los Angeles area on Saturday night, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound yesterday afternoon, authorities said. The attack in the Asian-majority community was the deadliest instance of gun violence in the US since 21 people were killed in a school in Uvalde, Texas, in May 2022.

Police at Monterey Park in Los Angeles
The shooting occurred in Monterey Park, a predominantly Asian-American neighbourhood of Los Angeles © David Swanson/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

The day ahead

Inflation data S&P Global purchasing managers’ index (PMI) for manufacturing and services will be released for Australia, Eurozone, France, Germany, Japan, UK and the US today.

Corporate earnings In a big day for earnings, Associated British Foods, Canadian National Railway, Capital One Financial, General Electric, Halliburton, Invesco, Johnson & Johnson, Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, Raytheon Technologies, Saga, Tata Motors and Verizon Communications are among the companies set to report results.

Doomsday clock update Bulletin of Atomic Scientists will announce the location of the minute hand on its Doomsday Clock, indicating the perceived likelihood of nuclear catastrophe.

To coincide with the publication of Martin Wolf’s new book, The Crisis of Democratic Capitalism, join Martin and other thought leaders online for a subscriber-exclusive event on January 31. Register for free here.

What else we are reading

China’s drug-pricing policy impedes biotech profits China’s biotech companies are struggling to become profitable as Beijing’s pricing policy undermines attempts to build a homegrown pharmaceutical industry through capital markets. Since 2018, 40 early-stage companies have floated in Hong Kong but nearly five years later, none of them is making a profit, according to our analysis.

‘Free the leopards!’ It is a demand that is being made with increasing urgency across Europe, as pressure mounts on Germany to send its prized tanks to Ukraine. So far, though, Olaf Scholz is resisting those calls even as allies become increasingly exasperated by the German chancellor’s poor communication and lack of coherence on the tanks issue.

Play our forecasting quiz Can you predict the year ahead better than superforecasters? The FT has teamed up with a forecasting organisation to craft 10 questions about how 2023 will play out. Complete our interactive quiz to find out how your answers compare with those of professionals, as well as other FT readers.

Luxury boom shows the staying power of the ultra-rich We may be heading for a global recession, writes Rana Foroohar, but the world’s richest people cannot seem to stop splashing the cash, with spending on luxury goods and experiences growing by about 20 per cent in 2022.

What to do if you hate your job Whatever your reason for being unhappy at work, hating your job is not viable long term. To help stop your mental and physical suffering and improve your situation, Grace Lordan of the London School of Economics shares eight strategies for those who hate their jobs.

Take a break from the news

Who is the author of Animal Farm? Try your hand at 16-across in our crossword puzzle.

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