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    North Sea oil and gas company Ithaca Energy (IACAF) has agreed to sell its Norwegian business to Hungary's MOL for $60 million, the companies said on Friday, marking the Hungarian company's entry into Norway's oil market. Ithaca's Norwegian business includes 14 licences in the Norwegian North Sea, three of which are operated by the unit, and it has committed to drilling three exploration wells in 2015-16.

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    LONDON, April 24 (Reuters) - Britain's FTSE 100 index is seen opening 21 points higher, or up 0.3 percent, on Friday, according to financial bookmakers. For more on the factors affecting European stocks, please click on * The FTSE 100 closed up 0.4 percent at 7,053.67 points, near a record high of 7,119.35 reached on April 16. The index is up 7.4 percent so far in 2015. * UK ELECTIONS - Business leaders have become frustrated at the tactics and tone of the Conservative election campaign. Twenty FTSE 100 and other business leaders told the Financial Times that they are anxious that despite presiding over an economic recovery, David Cameron has not opened a lead over Labour. (http://on.ft.com/1aVXwfn) * TESCO - Tesco Lotus, the Thai operation of Tesco, remains committed to Thailand and will continue to invest in expanding its retail and online channels, the Bangkok Post quoted Chief Executive John Christie as saying. (http://bit.ly/1Eky7b0) * BP - BP said on Thursday that talks to end an 11-week strike at its Whiting, Indiana, refinery were at a standstill over the union's bargaining rights while a walkout at its joint-venture Toledo, Ohio, plant would likely continue for some time. * ROYAL DUTCH SHELL - Shell has taken into account the risks presented by the Petrobras graft scandal to its expanding operations in Brazil and is confident the Brazilian state-run oil company will emerge stronger, the company's CEO said on Thursday. * ASTRAZENECA PLC - The drugs group is braced for dissent from leading investors over executive pay almost a year after it saw off a 69 billion pounds takeover bid from Pfizer, Sky News reported late on Thursday. The FTSE-100 drugs giant will be the subject of a modest shareholder revolt at its annual meeting on Friday. (http://bit.ly/1OM5vZK) * UK CORPORATE DIARY: Symbol Event Spectris PLC Trading Statement Release Q1 2015 Reckitt Benckiser Group PLC Trading Statement Release Q1 2015 AstraZeneca PLC Earnings Release UBM PLC Trading Statement Release TODAY'S UK PAPERS > Financial Times > Other business headlines Multimedia versions of Reuters Top News are now available for: * 3000 Xtra : visit http://topnews.session.rservices.com * BridgeStation: view story .134 For more information on Top News visit http://topnews.reuters.com (Reporting By Francesco Canepa)

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    (Adds company news) LONDON, April 24 (Reuters) - European shares were set to rise at the open on Friday, extending gains made so far this week, boosted by several encouraging earnings reports, while global sentiment was lifted by a new record high for the U.S. blue-chip Nasdaq index. Spain's Banco Sabadell and Swedish home appliances maker Electrolux were among companies to beat earnings expectations. Traders also cited optimism that Greece would be able to reach a debt deal with its European lenders after German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she had a "constructive" meeting with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. At 0652 GMT, futures for the Euro STOXX 50, Germany's DAX, France's CAC and Britain's FTSE indexes were up between 0.2 and and 0.5 percent. The FTSEurofirst is up 0.8 percent this week, and is 2 percent away from last week's 2015 high, which was its highest since 2000. The gains are set to follow on from a strong U.S. trading session, where the Nasdaq Composite closed at an all-time high on Thursday, surpassing a 2000 record set just before the dotcom crash. "We are calling the major bourses firmer with optimism around Greece and favourable leads from the US likely to drive an early rise," Stan Shamu, market strategist at IG, said in a note. In a generally quiet day for data, the German Ifo business sentiment survey is due at 0800 GMT. MAJOR EUROPEAN COMPANIES REPORTING: AIR LIQUIDE French industrial gases group Air Liquide AIR.PA said revenue in the first quarter grew by 3 percent on a comparable basis excluding currencies and other factors and by 7 percent on a reported basis to 3.993 billion euros ($4.31 billion). DEUTSCHE BANK The bank's executives are due to present strategic options to the supervisory board. Deutsche Bank has received at least one offer from a Chinese financial institution to buy the German bank's 20 percent stake in Hua Xia Bank , though a deal is not within reach yet, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters. Germany's financial watchdog is expected to finish its own investigation into the activities of Deutsche Bank's traders in May or June and a supervisory source said it would incorporate the findings of authorities in the United States and Britain. SIEMENS Siemens is among others weighing an offer for Halliburton's oilfield-services assets worth $5-10 billion, Bloomberg reported, citing sources. Siemens did not immediately respond to a request for comment. E.ON The utility's global commodities division has agreed to buy up to two million tonnes of regasified liquefied natural gas a year from Meridian LNG Holdings Corp, E.ON said on Thursday. CREDIT SUISSE The Swiss bank is due to hold its annual general meeting (AGM) at 0830 GMT. For more, click on RENAULT The carmaker said first-quarter revenue rose 13.7 percent as Europe's auto-market upturn more than made up for collapsing Russian sales and a prolonged emerging-market slump elsewhere. French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron has written to Renault boss Carlos Ghosn to defend the government's surprise stake increase in the carmaker and reject claims it endangers the Renault-Nissan alliance. TESCO Tesco Lotus, the Thai operation of Tesco, remains committed to Thailand and will continue to invest in expanding its retail and online channels, the Bangkok Post quoted Chief Executive John Christie as saying. (http://bit.ly/1Eky7b0) BP BP said on Thursday that talks to end an 11-week strike at its Whiting, Indiana, refinery were at a standstill over the union's bargaining rights while a walkout at its joint-venture Toledo, Ohio, plant would likely continue for some time. ROYAL DUTCH SHELL Shell has taken into account the risks presented by the Petrobras graft scandal to its expanding operations in Brazil and is confident the Brazilian state-run oil company will emerge stronger, the company's CEO said on Thursday. ASTRAZENECA PLC The drugs group is braced for dissent from leading investors over executive pay almost a year after it saw off a 69 billion pounds takeover bid from Pfizer, Sky News reported late on Thursday. The FTSE-100 drugs giant will be the subject of a modest shareholder revolt at its annual meeting on Friday. (http://bit.ly/1OM5vZK) SUEZ ENVIRONNEMENT Suez Environment, the world's second largest waste and water company, said on Friday core earnings rose 15.8 percent in the first quarter helped by a weaker euro currency, and confirmed its 2015 outlook. VINCI Europe's biggest construction and concessions company posted an 8 percent fall in first-quarter underlying sales as weak economic conditions in France weighed on its main contracting business, which includes construction and road building. VALEO The French car parts maker's first-quarter revenue rose 15 percent, lifted by growth in sales to European and Chinese automakers. SABADELL Spain's Banco Sabadell on Friday reported a 75 percent jump in first quarter net profit from a year earlier, beating forecasts on improved lending income and as charges on soured debts fell. TELEFONICA, PRISA Spain's antitrust watchdog on Thursday said it had approved the purchase of Prisa's pay-tv unit Canal+ by Telefonica although it attached conditions to the deal, among them the obligation to offer wholesale TV packages to competitors. SANTANDER ; UNICREDIT UniCredit and Banco Santander agreed on Thursday to merge their asset management businesses in a deal valuing the new group at some 5.4 billion euros ($5.8 billion). TELECOM ITALIA The state owner of Italy's Metroweb has rejected a proposal by Telecom Italia to take a stake in the broadband company and gradually reach full ownership, according to two people close to the matter and an email seen by Reuters. ENEL A Hungarian-led consortium is still interested in bidding for Enel's majority stake in the main Slovak electricity producer, the head of one of the companies in the group said on Thursday. FINMECCANICA The defence group said on Thursday it saw itself as damaged party in the Algeria probe involving its AgustaWestland unit. ELECTROLUX Home appliances maker Electrolux reported a smaller than expected slide in first quarter earnings and stood by its forecast for growth in white goods markets on both sides of the North Atlantic this year. MAJOR U.S. COMPANIES REPORTING : State Street Corp Q1 2015 State Street Corp Earnings Release Barnes Group Inc Q1 2015 Barnes Group Inc Earnings Release American Airlines Q1 2015 American Airlines Group Inc Group Inc Earnings Release First Niagara Q1 2015 First Niagara Financial Group Financial Group Inc Inc Earnings Release Provident Financial Q1 2015 Provident Financial Services Inc Services Inc Earnings Release Biogen Inc Q1 2015 Biogen Idec Inc Earnings Release JMP Group Inc Q1 2015 JMP Group Inc Earnings Release Westmoreland Q1 2015 Westmoreland Resource Partners Resource Partners LP LP Earnings Release IMS Health Holdings Q1 2015 IMS Health Holdings Inc Earnings Inc Release Xerox Corp Q1 2015 Xerox Corporation Earnings Release MAJOR MACROECONOMIC DATA/EVENTS (GMT) : 0800 DE Ifo Business Climate, Current Conditions, Expectations 1230 US Durable Goods 1430 US ECRI Weekly ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ MARKET SNAPSHOT AT 0513 GMT: LAST PCT CHG NET CHG S&P 500 2,112.93 0.24 % 4.97 NIKKEI 20042.68 -0.72 % -144.97 MSCI ASIA EX-JP 516.61 0.09 % 0.49 EUR/USD 1.0808 -0.15 % -0.0016 USD/JPY 119.51 -0.04 % -0.0500 10-YR US TSY YLD 1.954 -- 0.01 10-YR BUND YLD 0.164 -- 0.00 SPOT GOLD $1,191.35 -0.19 % -$2.25 US CRUDE $57.39 -0.61 % -0.35 > GLOBAL MARKETS-Asian shares take cue from Nasdaq record > US STOCKS-Nasdaq sets closing record > Nikkei poised to snap 3-day winning streak; oil stocks gain > TREASURIES-U.S. bond market rebounds on weak data, Greece > FOREX-Dollar slips on home data, euro climbs on Greek hopes > PRECIOUS-Soft U.S. data supports gold, but set for weekly dip > METALS-Copper rises in step with stronger equities, oil > Oil prices edge down from 2015-highs, but set for weekly gains (Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Francesco Canepa)

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    Following are the top stories on the New York Times business pages. * Facing intense regulatory scrutiny, Comcast Corp (CMCSA) is planning to abandon its $45 billion takeover of Time Warner Cable Inc (TWC), people briefed on the matter said on Thursday, ending a bid that would have united the country's two largest cable operators and reshaped the rapidly evolving video and broadband markets.

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    The following are the top stories in the Wall Street Journal. * Comcast Corp's (CMCSA) soon-to-be abandoned plan to acquire Time Warner Cable Inc (TWC) ran up against the challenge of overcoming scrutiny by two federal agencies, including a Justice Department review that was more skeptical.

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    Comcast (CMCSA) on Friday dropped its $45 billion merger with Time Warner Cable (TWX) after Washington regulators raised concerns that the combined giant would hold too much sway over the rapidly evolving television and entertainment industries, according to people familiar with the matter.The decision caps a spectacular collapse for one of the biggest deals ever to come before federal officials. The merger would have combined the two largest cable providers in the country and would have put more than half of all high-speed Internet customers under one company.The move by regulators to throw up roadblocks shows that the government has grown concerned about massive media conglomerates bigfooting rivals that are finding success by streaming content over the Internet, analysts said. And after years of approving a wave of mergers in the industry — including that of Comcast (CMCSA) and NBC Universal in 2011 — federal officials are taking a new tone, they said.“It sends a clear signal to the market that the dominant cable gatekeeper cannot stand in the way of skinny packages from programmers, online offerings, the kinds of things we’ve been hearing about,” said Gene Kimmelman, a former antitrust official at the Justice Department who is now president of the consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge. “People beginning to develop new services will now explode — services from Apple, Amazon, Sony (SNE), Google (GOOG), the new offerings from Sling TV, ESPN (DIS) on wireless devices.”For Comcast (CMCSA), the opposition from Washington was a massive blow.Few companies have had more success in persuading regulators to allow them to grow than Comcast (CMCSA), which evolved from a small cable television operator in rural Mississippi into a global media and telecommunications juggernaut. Merger after merger was approved over the decades much with the help of an army of lobbyists in Washington and in cities across the nation. Top executives including chief executive Brian Roberts golf with President Obama and are perennial big donors to political campaigns.Excluding the millions of dollars that Comcast (CMCSA) poured into advertising the benefits of the deal in major media outlets, the company spent $17 million in lobbying last year and had a team of 128 lobbyists, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.Comcast (CMCSA) and Time Warner Cable (TWX) declined to comment for this report. The people who were briefed on the companies’ plans spoke on the condition of anonymity because no formal announcement has been made at the time. The deal was officially called off early Friday. Bloomberg News first reported that the companies had decided to cancel the merger.The deal was originally proposed by Comcast (CMCSA) and Time Warner Cable (TWX) in February 2014. At the time, financial analysts predicted that the merger would be easily approved by the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission. The companies generally do not compete with each other in the same regions of the country and where they do, they offered to shed millions of customers to direct rivals.But the argument set off a firestorm from consumer advocates and Democratic lawmakers who argued that, in the new media landscape, geographic dominance has become far less of a concern. They added that the new combined company — as a dominant provider of high-speed Internet and cable and a creator of content through NBC Universal — would have far too much leverage over a wide range of online streaming companies, Web sites, programmers and others.That regulators would find such arguments persuasive hints at a change in thinking among antitrust officials in Washington, analysts said.“Comcast (CMCSA) spun a story about this purely being a horizontal play and that Time Warner (TWX) doesn’t compete in the same Zip codes — it’s a neat and surgically narrow interpretation. But that’s an unrealistic and inaccurate view of what’s really going on here, and Justice and the FCC know that they are using tools at their disposal to protect competition broadly,” said Diana Moss, president of the American Antitrust Institute.Indeed, Justice officials investigated complaints that Comcast (CMCSA) used its influence over the media industry to disadvantage rival telecom and satellite firms, according to a person familiar with the matter. Comcast (CMCSA) allegedly violated its 2011 merger agreement when it acquired NBC Universal to be a passive co-owner of the streaming service Hulu.In 2013, when co-owners Walt Disney Co. (DIS) and 21st Century Fox (FOXA) wanted to sell Hulu, Comcast (CMCSA) persuaded the media partners to hold off on the sale even though AT&T (T) and DirecTV (DTV) were bidding as much as $1 billion for the streaming service, according to the person. Justice officials were concerned that the action demonstrated Comcast’s enormous sway over the entertainment business and its ability to use one corporate unit to disadvantage rivals in another industry.“Even though there was a very good bid out there, Hulu was taken off the block, and that raised questions,” said the person familiar with the federal inquiry, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the matter freely. “They suspect Comcast (CMCSA) injected itself in a way that was against their merger conditions.”That power would have increased had Comcast (CMCSA) become the nation’s most dominant provider of high-speed Internet, critics of the deal said. Watching TV over the Internet has grown more popular in the year since the deal was proposed, as HBO (TWX), CBS (CBS) and others gave in to demands by consumers who wanted to watch their favorite shows online at a lower cost than what is charged for massive bundles of cable channels.Such questions were brought to Comcast’s attention in separate meetings this week at the Justice Department and at the FCC.After its meeting with Comcast (CMCSA) on Wednesday, the FCC prepared to hand off its review to an administrative judge — a rare move only for deals the agency is ready to block. At that point, analysts said, Comcast (CMCSA) had little choice but to walk away.“It is a tribute to [FCC Chairman] Tom Wheeler for demonstrating willingness to take on the politically powerful cable industry,” said Andrew Schwartzman, a law scholar at Georgetown University. “There has been, and there would be, a lot of political heat for doing this.”




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    * Announcement could come as soon as Friday -source. * FCC's strong stance seen as big factor -sources. * Internet service, online video key competitive issues. By Liana B. Baker, Alina Selyukh and Diane Bartz.

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    Comcast Corp's board was meeting late on Thursday to finalize plans to abandon its proposed $45 billion merger with Time Warner Cable Inc, according to a person directly familiar with the matter. An announcement is expected as early as Friday, the person added, asking not to be identified because the deliberations are confidential.

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    When Indiana passed a “religious freedom” law last month, state business leadersexpressedconcern about whether the rule would hurt their bottom lines.In the Virginia governor’s mansion, a certain set of gray eyebrows perked up.The tension in Indiana was just the opening that Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) needed. The former banker and serial businessman got on the phone and called eight or nine of the companies that publicly lamented the law.“Where a major company says I’m unhappy with something or I don’t want to be here anymore or I’m not going to expand, I see that. That’s open fishing for me,” McAuliffe said. “I get my rod and my reel, and I get out there.”He could use a big haul. Despite his occasional assertions that the state’s economy is “booming,” a year into his governorship McAuliffe is overseeing an economy in which its largest employer by far, the Defense Department, has been battered by cutbacks.Overall, 13 of the top 20 employers in the state are public agencies or contractors dependent on public spending — a troubling over-reliance on the government for jobs.In Northern Virginia, county budgets are suffering from write-downs of commercial property values as near-record office vacancies pile up. In Arlington County, officials closed the money-losing Artisphere complex and put nearly $1 million of the money saved into economic development efforts.Given those troubling indicators, and with his top legislative priority dashed in Richmond, McAuliffe in January reworked his objectives to accentuate economic development, an arena in which he could unleash his relentless — some would say obsessive — appetite to make a deal.He takes prospects on nighttime tours of the state capital. To woo a craft brewing company to Richmond, he installed a Kegerator in the executive mansion. To seal a deal with a Chinese paper manufacturer, he traveled to China, gobbled up a plate of three fried cicadas — considered a delicacy — and then ordered another.[Related: Chinese paper company to set up shop in Richmond suburbs]“He will go anywhere. He will call anybody. He will invite you over the executive mansion for lunch and dinner and then he will invite you over to the state capitol and give you a personal tour,” said Maurice Jones, Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade.“He will call some executive in the morning and say, ‘I bet the governor of Tennessee or Pennsylvania didn’t call you this morning. But guess what, you were the first person I thought about when I woke up this morning!’” Jones added. “Everyone knows it’s a joke, but it’s just one of the ways he tries to touch people.”McAuliffe became a millionaire at a young age and earned $9.5 million in 2012 alone. As a political fundraiser in private life, he pounded the phone lines asking again and again for campaign donations.As co-founder of GreenTech, an American company that bought a Chinese electric car manufacturer, McAuliffe was once on the other side of the bargaining table. He discussed incentives for the company with Virginia officials and later was criticized for allowing the company to open a manufacturing facility in Mississippi.As governor he has traveled twice to China, including once to finalize a deal for a Chinese paper-making facility, when he crunched on cicadas. He has used his expansive Rolodex to call on just about any executive he thinks might be willing to take a look at the commonwealth, including a call he placed to Rex W. Tillerson, Exxon chairman and chief executive, to aid a deal for Inova to buy Exxon’s Merrifield campus.John Boyd, a New Jersey relocation consultant who has advised companies including PepsiCo (PEP) and Dell, said that his clients that have worked with McAuliffe personally have been “very impressed.”“Terry McAuliffe is a superstar in corporate board rooms,” Boyd said. “He is very much a pro-business Democrat, and lots of powerful incentives are being created in Virginia.”The governor’s staff has tallied 362 business additions or expansions in the state since he came into office, including 256 that they say required the state’s support and 41 that received financial incentives.Among them are a $9.5 million incentive package to help the advisory firm CEB build a new Arlington headquarters and $5.25 million to persuade Stone Brewing Co. to build a brewery, restaurant and retail store in Richmond, a deal the governor sealed in part by visiting the company in San Diego and bringing in the Kegerator.McAuliffe has steered a cultural middle road in his pursuit of new business. In wooing Indiana companies, he wrote a letter saying that, “in Virginia, we do not discriminate against our friends and neighbors, particularly those who are supporting local businesses and generating economic activity.” He will fly to Cuba to promote trade.Unlike many other local Democrats, however, he has not criticized the name Redskins, a moniker many Native American groups consider a racial slur but one that is borne by a team for which he would like to build a new stadium.[Related: McAuliffe on Redskins stadium in Virginia: ‘It’s where they belong’]It may be too early to tell whether all the activity has moved the needle for the state’s economy, but there are other opportunities to grow the private sector on the horizon, upon which McAuliffe keeps close tabs.In February, Arne M. Sorenson, the chief executive of Marriott International (MAR), took many local officials by surprise when he said the company would move its headquarters, even though its lease isn’t up for another seven years. McAuliffe had already pitched him on Virginia.Harris Corp., a defense communications giant, became another top target when it announced plans to acquire McLean-based Exelis (XLS). As it stands, Harris has 13,000 employees, including 1,500 in Virginia and 400 at its Florida headquarters.Rumors of its possible consolidation in Virginia have grown to the degree that the company issued a regulatory filing saying it was “evaluating potential headquarter locations.”It’s unlikely that McAuliffe will land any of the Indiana companies he and his staff pitched, among them pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly (LLY), Cummins manufacturing and furniture maker Kimball International.But he will keep working the phones and he expects county officials to do the same. At a recent tech announcement in Crystal City, with more than 100 people in attendance, McAuliffe yelled out to the county’s new economic development director, Victor L. Hoskins: “I am expecting great things out of you, buddy.”In other words: Get out there and make some calls.Follow Jonathan O’Connell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz




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    Comcast Corp. (CMCSA) is planning to drop its proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable Inc. (TWC), according to people familiar with the matter, after stiff resistance from U.S. regulators threw the merger of the cable giants off track. A withdrawal by Comcast (CMCSA) would be a stunning turnaround for the $45.2 billion deal, one of the largest proposed media mergers in years. When it was announced in February 2014, many on Wall Street believed the deal was likely to be approved, albeit with concessions...

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    Comcast Corp's (CMCSA) board was meeting late on Thursday to finalize plans to abandon its proposed $45 billion merger with Time Warner Cable Inc (TWC), according to a person directly familiar with the matter. An announcement is expected as early as Friday, the person added, asking not to be identified because the deliberations are confidential.

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    Comcast Corp (CMCSA) plans to drop its $45 billion offer to buy Time Warner Cable Inc (TWC) in the face of opposition from U.S. regulators, Bloomberg reported on Thursday, citing people with knowledge of the matter. The cable operator could announce its decision on the merger as soon as Friday, Bloomberg said.

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    The family office, Hillspire LLC, bought a 20% stake in the New York hedge fund. The family office of Google Inc.' s Eric Schmidt has bought a 20% stake in New York hedge-fund firm D.E. Shaw Group from the estate of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., the parties said.

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    Comcast Corp. (CMCSA) is planning to scrap its plan to buy Time Warner Cable for $45 billion, Bloomberg TV reported Thursday, citing people with knowledge of the matter. The announcement could come by Friday, according to Bloomberg. The Federal Communications Commission is currently reviewing the deal.

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    Brazilian oil producer Petroleo Brasileiro   late Wednesday ended a five-month wait for its audited results when it published third-quarter and full-year figures that revealed a 21.6 billion reais loss for 2014 including R$6.2 billion in writedowns to account for graft payments. Rio de Janeiro-based Petrobras booked impairment charges totaling R$50.8 billion for 2014.