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from Breakingviews:

Portugal Telecom pays the price for weak controls

By Fiona Maharg-Bravo and Christopher Swann

The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own.

The show will go on. Portugal Telecom and Brazil’s Oi are forging ahead with their planned merger after an Espirito Santo group company failed to repay a $1.1 billion loan to PT. The Portuguese telco is paying the price for its weak controls over its own cash management. Its shareholders will now hold a smaller stake in the group it planned to form with Brazil’s Oi.

Rather than diversify its investments, PT invested 897 million euros, equivalent to nearly 40 percent of its cash balance, in Rioforte commercial paper. Rioforte’s unit Espirito Santo Financial Group is a large shareholder in Banco Espirito Santo, which in turn holds a 10 percent stake in PT. Oi says it was unaware of the investment.

The revised deal shields Oi shareholders from any fallout from the Rioforte debt fiasco. That debt was transferred to the Brazilian telco in May as part of the PT contribution to a capital increase at Oi. Portugal Telecom will get the toxic loan back, and must return Oi shares in exchange. That will shrink its stake in the combined entity from a planned 38 percent to 25.6 percent.

from Photographers' Blog:

On the Sidelines of the Brazil World Cup

Miami, United States

Russell Boyce

As national soccer teams and the photographers who have been covering them start to trickle home from the Brazil World Cup, it's time to revisit the "On the Sidelines" project.

This Reuters Pictures project was billed as a chance for photographers to share “their own quirky and creative view of the World Cup". I thought that I'd examine what has been achieved.

from Photographers' Blog:

The people’s game

Sao Paulo, Brazil

By Eddie Keogh

Former Liverpool F.C. manager Bill Shankly once said: "Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that."

I think that he may have learnt that in Brazil.

Brazil's soccer fans watch their team play against Chile during a 2014 World Cup round of 16 game, in a restaurant in Sao Paulo June 28, 2014. Brazil won the match. Picture taken June 28. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

I am covering the 2014 World Cup, and to capture the action, I usually sit by the side of the pitch.

from Photographers' Blog:

The soccer ball as protagonist

Brasilia, Brazil

By Ueslei Marcelino

Most Brazilians, rich or poor, are passionate about soccer. But that’s not to say that this love of the sport permanently unites the nation - recent protests over the World Cup have made that clear.

Brazilian society still suffers from class division and there is a wide gap between the wealthy and the less well-off. It seems to me that we Brazilians are not one people, but for a short while, whenever the national team plays, we can pretend we are.

from Breakingviews:

Numbers show Germany will beat Brazil to World Cup

By Robert Cole and Peter Thal Larsen

The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own.

Germany is on course to dash Brazil’s World Cup dream. The football-mad host nation has cruised into the knock-out stages of the global soccer jamboree, while rivals like Spain have gone home early. But Germany will see off Brazil in the semi-final, before going on to lift the trophy by defeating Argentina in the final.

from Photographers' Blog:

Did he bite?

Miami, Florida

By Russell Boyce

The shout went up “He’s bitten him! Suarez has just bitten him!”

It was the World Cup match between Uruguay and Italy, and both teams were playing for a place in the last 16.

The game was tense, with pictures streaming in from the match in Brazil to the remote picture-editing center we have set up in Miami.

from Anatole Kaletsky:

Should Brazilians cheer if they lose the World Cup?

Brazil's President Rousseff attends a meeting of the Brazilian Forum on Climate Change in Brasilia

As the World Cup kicks off in Sao Paolo this week, the home team is the runaway favorite, with a 45 percent chance of winning the tournament, according to Nate Silver on FiveThirtyEight and 48.5 percent probability according to the statistical boffins at Goldman Sachs. But apart from the bookmakers -- who stand to lose a fortune if Brazil wins, since they are offering odds of around 3 to 1, instead of the 1 to 1 suggested by Silver’s and Goldman’s calculations -- another, more surprising, group is secretly rooting against the favorite: Brazil’s own financial and business community, along with much of the country’s middle class.

That, at least, was my strong impression after two weeks visiting companies and financial institutions in Brazil. This unusual reversal of national spirit does not represent a breakdown of patriotism. Rather the opposite.

from Breakingviews:

Brazil’s companies need soccer team’s global clout

By Dominic Elliott

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Brazil’s corporate squad pales beside its soccer stars. The country’s national football side has unquestioned world-class quality in almost every position on the pitch. Yet if there were a World Cup for businesses, Brazil would struggle to get past the group stage.

from John Lloyd:

Corruption predates the World Cup, but it doesn’t have to live past it

An aerial shot shows the Arena Fonte Nova  stadium, one of the stadiums hosting the 2014 World Cup soccer matches, in Salvador

Crooked sports didn’t begin with FIFA or the World Cup. The truth is, the fix has been in since the beginning of time.

The first recorded example was Eupolos of Thessalia, who bribed three of his competitors in a boxing bout to take a dive during the Olympic Games of 388 BC. It must have been a big bribe, since one of those fudging the match was the formidable Phormion of Halikarnassos, the reigning champion.

from Breakingviews:

Investors cheer for Brazil World Cup rout

By Rob Cox

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

At the opening of the Confederations Cup in Brasilia a year ago, President Dilma Rousseff was booed by thousands of soccer fans for all of Brazil to see. It’s easy to understand then why she isn’t planning to speak at Thursday’s opening ceremony of the World Cup. An embarrassing turn as host of Earth’s biggest sporting event - or crushing repeat of the 1950 Maracanaço - may be the greatest obstacle to her clinching a second term.

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