As an Englishman living in the US, I am feeling very important at the moment. Every American I know is asking my opinion on the World Cup. Why they think I, as a native of a country with a 48 year history of ridiculously exaggerated expectations and abject failure in the world’s biggest sporting event, should have any special insight is a mystery to me, but they do.
The usual question is who I believe the winner will be. This poses a problem. I cannot, in all honesty, satisfy their own ridiculous hopes and expectations by declaring the USA as a possible winner. Not even their coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, believes that. Nor can I give England as a possible winner with a straight face. The obvious answer, Brazil, is just that… boring and obvious, so I have taken to giving a somewhat quirky answer. When asked who will emerge victorious from the World Cup, I have taken to answering “Petrobras” (PBR).
Believe me I am all too aware that, as the above chart would suggest, Wall Street and the internet are littered with those whose careers have been killed by finding value in the state-owned Brazilian oil company. I have no wish to join their ranks, but the World Cup could provide the catalyst for a turnaround in the company’s fortunes. No, I’m not talking about floodlight use creating electricity demand or more buses and trains running, increasing oil consumption. The way in which 32 national teams kicking balls around over the next few weeks could benefit PRB is much more complex than that.
In the run up to the event, most of the attention has been on two things. Firstly, the needed construction was behind schedule. Forgive my world-weariness, but don’t we hear this before every major sporting contest, and aren’t things always ready on time? If you paid attention to the reports it is a miracle that anything happened in Beijing in 2008, South Africa in 2010, London in 2012 or Sochi earlier this year, but they all took place.
It is the second center of the world’s attention, the protests centered around the World Cup, which hold the key to an improvement in the fortunes of Petrobras. These demonstrations have ostensibly been about the cost of the tournament, but the complaints of the protestors are generally more fundamental. They are upset that corruption and inequality persist in Brazil and the protestors form part of a growing opposition to the re-election of the President,…