Unstructured Finance

UF Weekend Reads

By Katya Wachtel

Yes, Germany and Greece have been in a war of words in the unfolding crisis over the latter’s membership in the euro zone, but this afternoon the two nations face off in a different (and far more entertaining) way: they go head-to-head in the European Championship quarterfinal.

As Reuters’ Alexander Hudson reports from Poland, the setting of tonight’s more-than-just-a-game battle, “When Greece take the football field in the Polish coastal city of Gdansk… the honor of the nation is at stake.” Greece, by the way, has never beaten Germany on the soccer pitch.

Closer to home, with the NBA season now officially over – congrats to our Miami Heat fans – there’s a little more time for some weekend reading…

From New York Magazine:

Cleary Gottlieb attorney Lee Buchheit has the cure for debt-laden Greece, Spain and Italy, writes Jessica Pressler.

From Dealbook:

Is lying different from stealing in matters of securities fraud, Steven Davidoff asks in his column, comparing the crimes of Enron’s Jeffrey Skilling with those of convicted insider traders Rajaratnam and Gupta.

World Cup is no March Madness in sapping productivity

cup1It may be the World Cup, but when it comes to sapping productivity in the United States the global soccer tournament still has a thing or two to learn from March Madness and the National Football League.

Outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, which often measures lost workplace productivity, said many U.S. fans will tune in for the quadrennial soccer tournament, which kicks off Friday in South Africa, but the event still trails the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, dubbed March Madness, and other events.

“Soccer simply has not caught on with the majority of American sports fans, Challenger CEO John Challenger said in a statement.

Deals du Jour

Belgium’s Solvay is selling its drugs unit to U.S. partner Abbott Laboratories for 4.5 billion euros ($6.6 billion) in cash and reinvest in chemicals and plastics. Sources familiar with the deal have earlier told Reuters Abbott had agreed to buy the unit to bloster its flagging prescription drug business.

Australia’s biggest department store chain Myer plans to raise up to $2 billion in a share offering that will test investor appetite for retail stocks.

In M&A news reported by Reuters and elsewhere on Monday: 

* A Saudi prince is set to spend up to 350 million pounds ($558 million) to buy a 50 percent stake in English soccer club Liverpool, al-Riyadh newspaper quoted him as saying on Sunday. 

Own goal?

Standard Chartered bucks the trend of banks making a dash from sports sponsorship deals and will pay $130 million to put its name on Liverpool Football Club’s shirts for four years from next summer. It is one of the most lucrative deals in soccer history.But AIG, Citi, RBS and Northern Rock offer a stark reminder that big sports deals can be high-profile signals of waste. AIG sponsored Manchester United and RBS and ING pumped millions into Formula One, and Northern Rock was better known to millions as the sponsor of Newcastle F.C. than as a mortgage bank — until its collapse.Citi raised anger after sticking with a controversial $400 million deal with baseball team the New York Mets. All those banks needed taxpayer rescue funds.Critics say big sports deals can reflect poor corporate governance and misguided priorities. Advisory firm Advisor Perspectives this year said a study of 69 U.S. sports “naming rights” deals showed the performance of the companies buying the rights trailed the S&P 500 index by almost 5 percent over the course of the deal.But it could be a good fit for StanChart, which gets 80 percent of its profits in Asia. Liverpool is a big, iconic name in Asia and English Premier League games are screened into millions of homes each week. The prize for the bank is not the domestic or European fields where Liverpool has enjoyed regular success, but the potential customers in China, India, Indonesia, Thailand and across the region.At least there can be few complaints the bank’s board is following its heart. Former chairman and CEO Mervyn Davies was a staunch Spurs supporter, current CEO Peter Sands is an avid Arsenal fan and Finance Director Richard Meddings may have struggled to find a global reach with a deal with his beloved Wolverhampton Wanderers.

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