Posted on 12:48pm Friday 24th May 2013
Manchester United announced Thursday that more than $290 million of its high-interest debt has been refinanced, cutting the club's interest costs by around $15 million a year.
Fresh from winning a 20th English title and undergoing an apparently smooth managerial succession, United said it has secured a new loan from Bank of America with far lower interest rates.
United has refinanced 177.78 million pounds ($269 million) of outstanding 8.75 per cent interest sterling bonds and $22.09 million of 8.375 per cent dollar bonds.
The new loan from June 24 will have an estimated starting interest rate of around 2.78 per cent. Interest payments should come down from around 31 million pounds to 21 million pounds per year ($31.7 million), United said in a statement.
United, which is owned by the American Glazer family and listed on the New York Stock Exchange, has approximately halved its total debts to 370 million pounds ($559.4 million) in three years.
The refinancing package appears to indicate investor confidence in both the business and the first managerial change at Old Trafford since 1986, with David Moyes replacing Alex Ferguson.
"It shows that the infrastructure is in place and the decision they made on the managerial front is viewed as, not negative, but positive," Majid Ishaq, managing director of financial advisory group Rothschild, told The Associated Press.
"They are in a position today where they have gone back to the market to refinance that particular part of the financing on very attractive terms because they have really delivered, and grown the underlying revenue and profitability."
United said earlier this month it is on course to generate more than 350 million pounds ($530 million) this season after earning a record 91.7 million pounds ($139 million) in the three months to March 31. Net profit more than trebled year-on-year to 3.6 million pounds ($5.4 million) in the third quarter.
"United is unique in that they have a great historic brand, and they have managed to derive value from that history and heritage in a very commercial way," said Ishaq, a football finance expert. "That's a big positive for investors."
Posted on 12:45pm Friday 24th May 2013
Vitor Belfort delivered one of the most spectacular knockouts of his career on Saturday, beating Luke Rockhold in the first round of the main event of "UFC on FX 8: Belfort vs. Rockhold."
Known as an aggressive striker, Belfort (23-10) instead paced himself as the engaged in the early going and showed restraint by not overcommitting against the larger Rockhold (10-2).
But when the opportunity presented itself, Belfort delivered an incredible spinning heel kick that landed flush on Rockhold's chin and sent him toppling to the floor. Belfort pounced with a flurry of punches on the ground, and referee Leon Roberts called off the fight at the 2:32 mark of the first round.
Belfort, who has been heavily criticized in some circles for his commission-approved use of testosterone-replacement therapy improves to 4-1 in his past five fights and may have moved himself back into title contention at 185 pounds. The Brazilian is now 10-2 in the past six years with both losses coming to the men largely considered the world's two best fighters in Jon Jones and Anderson Silva.
Still, Belfort said he'll wait for the UFC to issue his next assignment rather than ask for a specific opportunity.
"I'm here to fight," Belfort said after the win. "I don't pick fights. I accept fights."
Belfort was awarded a US$50,000 bonus cheque as the evening's "Knockout of the Night."
In the night's co-feature, former Strikeforce middleweight champion Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza (18-3) flashed his impressive jiu-jitsu skills in a first-round stoppage win over Chris Camozzi (19-6).
Souza wasted little time getting the fight to the floor in the opening round, and while Camozzi showed capable defence for several minutes, "Jacare" was too much on the floor. The multiple time jiu-jitsu world champion quickly latched on an arm-triangle choke and squeezed tight, putting Camozzi to sleep in mere seconds. The official time came at the 3:37 mark of the first frame.
With an impressive win in his UFC debut, Souza immediately establishes himself as a contender in the promotion's 185-pound division.
Posted on 12:45pm Friday 24th May 2013
Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson tried to offer some clarity on Thursday regarding the comments he made after his club's 7-3 drubbing at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series.
After the game on Wednesday, a dejected Alfredsson was asked if the team could win three in a row to rally and take the series.
"Probably not," he said. "Their depth and power play right now, it doesn't look too good (for us)."
When asked about the comments again, the 16-year NHL veteran suggested that his comments were misunderstood.
"There's no denying we're in tough," he told reporters. "Was it taken out of context? Probably, but that's fine. I can handle that."
Wednesday's loss marked the third time in franchise history the Senators have allowed seven goals in a playoff game and head coach Paul MacLean held firm on his own post-game comments that his club was, "coming to play," in Game 5.
"It's behind us and over and we're going to Pittsburgh to play," he reiterated on Thursday.
MacLean added that there are lineup changes being considered for Game 5, but nothing would be finalized until game day. He did, however, say that Craig Anderson - who was lit up for six goals before being pulled in favour of Robin Lehler - would get the start.
"Our goaltender allows us to play with a certain amount of freedom," said MacLean. "But at the same time, we have to play for him, too."
One issue for the Senators has been their second period problems, as the team has been outscored 13-4 in the middle stanza during the postseason. "They have been able to start periods better than we have," MacLean said flatly. "We need to come out harder."
Posted on 12:44pm Friday 24th May 2013
The Stockholm fire brigade has tackled fires at at least two schools as rioting in suburbs of the Swedish capital continued for a fifth night.
Firefighters also dealt with fires in 15 cars, two containers and a fourth building, the brigade said, while police made eight arrests.
But the unrest appeared to be less intense than on other nights.
The nightly riots began in a deprived, largely immigrant suburb where police shot a man dead last week.
They have since spread around the city, with groups of youths stoning police and firefighters summoned to tackle arson attacks.
Rioting on this scale is unprecedented for the Swedish capital and has raised questions about the success of the country's attempts to integrate foreign-born residents, who now make up some 15% of the population.
On Sunday, up to 100 vehicles were burnt as youths rioted in Husby, where an elderly man had been killed by police as he allegedly threatened them with a machete.
"In terms of extent, it is a little less, a little quieter," police spokesman Kjell Lindgren told Reuters news agency on Friday.
Police, he said, were seeking reinforcements from other areas to help deal with the rioting, as well as forthcoming football matches and the wedding of Princess Madeleine, third in line to the throne, on 8 June.
Stockholm county police chief Mats Loefving said the rioters were local youths both with and without criminal records.
"In the midst of all this there is a small group of professional criminals, who are taking advantage of the situation to commit crimes like this," he told Swedish Radio.
In Husby, more than 80% of the 12,000 or so inhabitants are from an immigrant background, and most are from Turkey, the Middle East and Somalia.
Community activists have accused the police of using racist language during the unrest and prosecutors are investigating complaints. Police have tried to calm the situation by speaking to community leaders, such as in mosques.
Posted on 12:44pm Friday 24th May 2013
A powerful earthquake has struck off the Kamchatka peninsula in Russia's far east.
Authorities in the eastern province of Sakhalin initially issued a tsunami warning but this has now been lifted.
The US Geological Survey said the earthquake was of a magnitude of 8.3, but Russian authorities estimated the size of the earthquake at 6.7.
Soon after the earthquake, tremors were felt across Russia but it is unclear if they were linked.
The tremors reached as far as the capital Moscow, some 7,000km (4,500 miles) to the west. The last time tremors were felt in Moscow was some 30 years ago.
The epicentre of the quake, which struck at 15:44 local time (05:44 GMT), was in the Sea of Okhotsk to the west of the Kamchatka peninsula, around 600 km (380 miles) under the sea.
The area is sparsely populated. The most significant population centre is the city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy on the Kamchatka peninsula, famous for its active volcanoes.
Residents of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy, around 400 km from the epicentre, briefly ran out of buildings and schoolchildren were evacuated, the Associated Press reports.
However, there are no reports of casualties or significant damage.
The strength of the earthquake is very unusual, even on Russia's most active geological fault.
Posted on 12:43pm Friday 24th May 2013
A British Airways (BA) plane had to return to Heathrow Airport to make an emergency landing after black smoke was seen coming from an engine.
Both runways were closed as passengers and crew left the plane down emergency chutes.
BA said the Heathrow to Oslo service turned back after a technical fault before 09:00 BST. Witnesses reported seeing flames coming from the engine.
Both the southern and northern runways have since reopened.
Emergency services were standing by while the plane was evacuated.
London Ambulance Service said three people had been treated for minor injuries.
BA said the Airbus A319 was carrying 75 passengers and a "full investigation" would be conducted into the incident.
The Metropolitan Police attended the emergency and tweeted: "Police at Heathrow assisted in the response to the emergency landing. It is not being treated as a terrorist incident at this time."
Witness John Coghlan told the BBC he saw a "black smoke trail" from the engine of a British Airways Airbus A319.
He said: "[It was a] safe landing and passengers evacuated by chutes on runway."
Jez Stamp, from Farnham in Surrey, who was on a plane waiting to take off to Jordan, said: "I could see smoke on the right engine.
"We just saw it come to a halt and fire engines were already there waiting for it and they immediately started hosing the plane down."
Posted on 10:33am Thursday 23rd May 2013
Mario Gotze will miss the Champions League final - meaning he will avoid another angry backlash from furious Borussia Dortmund fans.
The forward has been ruled out of Saturday's showpiece at Wembley with a thigh injury. It is a major blow for manager Jurgen Klopp, who leads his side into battle against Bayern Munich in a bid to be crowned champions of Europe.
Yet, Gotze may be relieved to avoid another backlash from fans after going house hunting in Munich in the build-up to Saturday's all-German Champions League final.
Already pilloried by an outraged Dortmund public for agreeing to join bitter rivals and Wembley opponents Bayern after this weekend's season finale, the 20-year old has risked further alienating them by viewing property in the Bavarian capital while his team-mates prepared for the biggest game of their lives.
The trip last week was ostensibly for a consultation with a Munich specialist but he ended up dividing his time between having his hamstring injury treated and touring one of the city's most desirable residential areas.
He evidently viewed an apartment that was to his liking and while no-one can blame him for planning ahead, it is bound to be seen as insensitive by Dortmund followers so close to his planned farewell appearance against the team he is about to join, in the biggest club game German football has known.
Still a fortnight short of his 21st birthday, he will apparently take any escalation of hostility towards him in his stride.
Such a sustained level of abuse, since his £31.5million defection to Bayern was announced a month ago, might normally be enough to test the fortitude of the most seasoned campaigner, but a Dortmund source insisted: 'You will not find a cooler customer than Mario.
Posted on 10:32am Thursday 23rd May 2013
The cultural riches of Paris can conjure up all sorts of dilemmas. Where to begin? The Louvre or the Musee d’Orsay? The Eiffel Tower or the Arc de Triomphe?
Yet when Jay Electronica visited the City of Light earlier this month, he pulled out his smartphone and got straight to the point.
‘Dear Paris, who has trees?’ tweeted the self-proclaimed rap poet. Swiftly deleted, the message was nevertheless seen by his 116,500 fans, so one can only assume the mission was accomplished.
And Jay Electronica, for those less than familiar with much-hyped but rarely heard hip-hop artists, is the grand amour of Kate Rothschild, the beautiful heiress of the famous banking family, whose father left £18 million to his wife and daughters.
It was their relationship that led to the collapse of her marriage to Ben Goldsmith. The break-up of scions of two of the wealthiest families in Britain was played out in spectacularly public fashion on Twitter.
Now, with the dust settled and the decree nisi granted, rumours are gathering pace in the salons of London society that Kate is preparing for another wedding.
But how suitable for a Rothschild heiress is 36-year-old Electronica, who grew up in one of the most notorious crime-ridden ghettoes of New Orleans? If alarm bells are set ringing by his penchant for ‘trees’, investigation only serves to heighten those concerns.
In this country, he is establishing himself as high society’s rapper of choice.
Only last month, he was sipping champagne at a barn dance on a Guinness family estate in Wiltshire, rubbing shoulders (in his Nike jumper and T-shirt) with the likes of Eliza Cummings, the model girlfriend of financier Nat Rothschild, and dozens more aristocratic socialites.
To his new Barbour-clad crew, Jay - real name Timothy Elpadaro Thedford - is the definition of cool: one of the most elusive and mysterious men in hip-hop has pitched his tent in their midst.
The fact that such a prominent figure as Kate Rothschild patently adores him, and hangs on his every word, simply serves to reinforce that impression.
The view across the pond, however, is one of wry amusement at the sheer brass neck of the man. Among those who have heard of him, that is.
For while the Rothschild connection has afforded him a certain profile in this country, in truth he remains all but anonymous in his homeland.
Indeed, despite signing in a blaze of publicity for the Roc Nation label owned by Jay-Z - the biggest rap star in America - nearly three years ago, he is yet to release an album.
Martin Spasov, the New York-based music industry commentator, describes him as ‘at the very least, a self-promotion genius’.
‘When was the last time a rapper became so popular based on so little? I’m willing to bet Jay Electronica was never going to release an album in the first place, even without the interference of Ms Rothschild.’
Other critics put it even more bluntly, suggesting that Mr Electronica is content to stay in London because there he faces fewer questions about his status as a credible artist.
Posted on 10:32am Thursday 23rd May 2013
The US attorney general has acknowledged four US citizens have been killed in drone strikes since 2009.
In a letter to the Senate judiciary committee, Eric Holder defended the targeted killing of Anwar al-Awlaki.
But he said Awlaki's 16-year-old son as well as two other individuals were "not specifically targeted by the US".
The disclosure comes as President Barack Obama prepares to make a speech on counter-terrorism and the drone programme on Thursday.
The president will "discuss why the use of drone strikes is necessary, legal and just, while addressing the various issues raised by our use of targeted action", administration officials said.
His speech coincides with the signing of new "presidential policy guidance" on when drone strikes can be used, the White House said.
According to US news reports, the Pentagon has already started taking over responsibility from the CIA for drone strikes outside Pakistan.
The disclosure of the killings in Yemen and Pakistan marks the first formal public acknowledgement of the US citizen deaths in drone strikes.
"The president has directed me to disclose certain information that until now has been properly classified," Mr Holder wrote.
America's top law enforcement official defended the killing of Awlaki, whom he described as a "senior operational leader" of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
Mr Holder said Awlaki was "intimately involved in detailed planning and putting in place plots against US persons".
Posted on 10:31am Thursday 23rd May 2013
An 80-year old Japanese mountaineer has reached the summit of Mount Everest, making him the oldest man to scale the world's highest peak.
Yuichiro Miura, who climbed Everest when he was 70 and then again at 75, reached the peak early on Thursday morning, his support team said.
He replaces Nepal's Min Bahadur Sherchan, who was 76 when he conquered Everest in 2008, as the record holder.
But Mr Sherchan, now 81, is set to tackle the mountain again next week.
Mr Miura began his final charge for the 29,035-foot (8,850-meter) peak around 02:00 on Thursday, Japanese media reported, and arrived at the summit some seven hours later.
"I made it!'' Mr Miura said, speaking to his family and supporters via satellite phone from the summit.
"I never imagined I could make it to the top of Mt Everest at age 80. This is the world's best feeling, although I'm totally exhausted. Even at 80, I can still do quite well.''
A Nepalese mountaineering official also confirmed to the Associated Press news agency that Mr Miura had made it to the summit.
Mr Miura made the climb with three other Japanese climbers, including his son, and six Nepali Sherpas, Reuters news agency reported.
An extreme skier who once held a world speed-skiing record, Mr Miura broke his pelvis and left thigh in 2009 and has also had a number of operations on his heart.
Ahead of his climb, he said scaling Everest was about challenging his limits and honouring "the great Mother Nature".
"If the limit of age 80 is at the summit of Mt. Everest, the highest place on earth, one can never be happier," he wrote on his expedition website.
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