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Samba twist

Activist hedge fund Aurelius Capital Management has started turning the screws on Brazilian company Petrobras. The state-run oil company, which is facing serious graft charges against its topmost executives, was to release its results in November but extended the deadline to January 31 to assess potential losses. Aurelius has urged Petrobras’ investors to take stock of its $54 billion debt — covered under US law — and declare the company a technical defaulter as it has failed to declare its results in time. Despite its huge oil reserves, Petrobras risks losing its investment grade debt rating and, given that Aurelius has dragged Argentina to court as well, the Brazilian government will need to mollify the activist group before it’s too late.

Different strokes

Pablo Picasso is now passé. The Spanish great has been pipped at the post by contemporary icon Andy Warhol in terms of art sales, with competition for the most expensive segment of the market spurring global figures by 10% to $16 billion. Collectors reportedly bought 1,295 works of the deceased artist (worth a combined $800 million), ahead of sales for Picasso. Annual art sales have more than doubled from $6.3 billion in 2009 and the premium that Warhol commanded was evident in Picasso’s figures as well: 2,820 of his works fetched a combined $449 million. Guess Warhol’s finally enjoying his fifteen minutes of fame.

A strong brew

That priceless sensation that a hot cup of coffee guarantees on cold winter mornings — turns out, it’s only too real. Coffee has turned out to be the most priceless commodity over the past year. A historic drought in Brazil and a harvest-hurting fungus in central America crippled global supplies, driving up prices at all coffee chains. For futures traders, coffee consequently proved to be a better bet than bullion and crude, which were the worst performing commodities of the year.

Russian roulette

Russian billionaire investor Yuri Milner is betting big on Chinese smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi, which has — in the past — been accused of copying Apple’s products. With a $45-billion valuation, the company is today among the world’s most valuable tech start-ups. Xiaomi’s mind-boggling valuation follows a $1.1 billion funding run led by Milner’s DST and Singapore’s GIC. Milner believes Xiaomi will enter the $100 billion club soon, and if it does manage to sell its stated 100 million phones this year, he should have no reason to worry at all.

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