Havaianas: the new symbol of corruption in Brazil

Recently the footwear find themselves linked with a more sombre aspect of Brazil that has been grabbing headlines – corruption.


Last week, to pay off a mega $3.2 billion fine over 25 years for various graft cases, the Brazilian brothers Joesley et Wesley Batista started selling off assets they controlled through their J&F group, whose main business is being the world’s biggest meat processor.

J&F had a 54-percent stake in Alpargatas, the parent company of Havaianas. That was purchased by three holding firms: Itausa, Cambuhy Investimentos and Brasil Warrant.

The Havaianas success story started in 1962, riding the sudden international popularity of flip-flops in the post-WWII boom.

Inspired by traditional Japanese rice-straw sandals, the origin of the rubber-soled flip-flops is variously claimed by Brazil, Australia and New Zealand.

But it was Havaianas that emerged as the most recognizable brand of the toe-strap footwear. The brand name comes from the Portuguese spelling of another tropical playground: Hawaii.

‘Cool’ for all classes

It was a big marketing push in the 1990s that burnished the Havaianas name, along with a colorful range of designs.

The Brazilian firm now sells more than 150 different models, from the basic beach pair for $5, to ones with tropical motifs and a tiny Brazilian flag for $9, right up to custom Swarovski gem-encrusted luxury options for more than $60.


In a Copacabana shop, Solange Brascher, a 55-year-old employee in a telecoms company, bought an average-priced pair for her daughter.

“Before, there was an idea of them being for poor people,” she said. “But now all social classes wear them because they’re cool.”

Havaianas sells more than 200 million pairs each year, 16 percent of them exported.

For sheer Brazilian-ness, they rank up there with soccer and samba.

“They’re the first thing I bought when I arrived, to give to friends,” a young Portuguese tourist, Beatriz Rodrigues, said. “I’ve already bought 10 pairs and I’m going to buy another 10 because they’re much more expensive in Europe.”

Today, Alpargatas, whose headquarters is in Sao Paulo, has more than 700 sales outlets in more than 100 countries.

“Havaianas represent the Brazilian soul, and is an object of desire, synonymous with a Brazil that works,” opined Claudio Goldberg, economic professor at the Getulio Vargas Foundation.

Celebrity feet

Certainly they have attracted star power. Havaianas have adorned the feet of Madonna, David Beckham, and Kim Kardashian, who flaunted ones designed by the jeweler H. Stern with gold settings worth $18,000.

When Havaianas rolled out their first pairs they were a basic white rubber sole with blue toe straps. Then in 1969 an employee accidentally painted the straps green. To Alpargatas’ surprise, the variation took off, and from then on Havaianas started playing with colors and then designs.

The company asserts that two-thirds of the people in Brazil – total population 200 million – buy on average one pair of Havaianas a year. And that if all the pairs it had sold in its history were laid end-to-end they would circle the Earth 62 times.

But how will the whiff of corruption wafting from its former owners affect the brand?

“It’s already a good thing that such a brand is remaining Brazilian,” Goldberg said. The company “won’t lose its identity.”

As for the new owners, they’ve said they want to expand further into the US market. And the current management of the famous footwear won’t get the boot.


Full-time employment rise ‘fantastic’

The number of people in full-time work surged by 62,000 in June, continuing the recent run of strong employment data.


But on their own the results are not enough to stir immediate worries about the need for higher interest rates, economists say.

Employment Minister Michaelia Cash calculated that in the first half of 2017 about 27,000 full-time jobs have been created each month.

“That is a fantastic thing for the Australian people,” Senator Cash told reporters in Perth on Thursday.

Commonwealth Securities chief economist Craig James says the combined May-June result of 115,400 additional full-time jobs was the biggest back-to-back gain in almost three decades.

It put to rest concerns insufficient work is available, he said.

“Should the Reserve Bank start thinking about lifting rates? Perhaps the Reserve Bank can start thinking, but it is still too early to lift rates,” Mr James said.

While jobs are being created, wages aren’t rising just yet.

The rise in full-time employment was partly offset by a 48,000 drop in part-time workers in June.

That left the jobless rate unchanged at 5.6 per cent after the May result was revised up from 5.5 per cent.

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief James Pearson said while unemployment has remained steady, there are 728,100 people out of work and 1.1 million people underemployed.

“Today’s result underscores the need to make it easier for business to hire and make it easier for businesses to grow,” he told AAP.

The latest job results have come at a time of heightened discussions surrounding interest rates.

Minutes of the Reserve Bank’s July board meeting, released this week, included an assessment of what is considered to be a “neutral” cash rate if inflation is stable and the economy is growing at around three per cent.

That rate is now estimated to be 3.5 per cent compared with five per cent prior to the 2008-2009 global financial crisis and the record low 1.5 per cent cash rate now.

Malcolm Turnbull believes the central bank is sending a prudent signal about future interest rates rises.

“They are not saying they are going to do that tomorrow,” the prime minister assured Neil Mitchell on radio 3AW.

“But I think they are sending a signal, which is probably prudent, which is to say … rates are more likely to go up than go down.”

Borrowers should be aware of that, Mr Turnbull warned.

Financial markets are betting on a 0.25 per cent rise in the cash rate to 1.75 per cent in the middle of next year.

Lifestyle changes may stave off dementia

Learning new things, eating and drinking well, not smoking and limiting hearing loss and loneliness could prevent one-third of dementia cases, health experts say.


In a wide-ranging analysis of the risk factors behind dementia, the researchers highlighted nine as particularly important.

These included staying in education beyond age 15, reducing high blood pressure, obesity and hearing loss in mid-life, and reducing smoking, depression, physical inactivity, social isolation and diabetes in later life.

If all these risk factors were fully eliminated, the experts said, one in three cases of dementia worldwide could be prevented.

“Although dementia is diagnosed in later life, the brain changes usually begin to develop years before,” said Gill Livingston, a professor at University College London and one of 24 international experts commissioned by The Lancet medical journal to conduct the analysis.

Latest estimates from the Alzheimer’s Association International show about 47 million people live with dementia globally and the cost of the brain-wasting diseases already hundreds of billions of dollars a year.

Dementia is caused by brain diseases, most commonly Alzheimer’s disease, which result in the loss of brain cells and affect memory, thinking, behaviour, navigational and spatial abilities and the ability to perform everyday activities.

The number of people affected is set to almost triple to 131 million by 2050, according to the World Health Organisation.

The researchers found that among the 35 per cent of all dementia cases that could be prevented, the three most important risk factors to target were increasing early life education, reducing midlife hearing loss and stopping smoking.

Not completing secondary education while young can make people less resilient to cognitive decline when they get older, the experts said, while preserving hearing helps people experience a richer and more stimulating environment, building cognitive reserve.

Stopping smoking reduces exposure to neurotoxins and improves heart health which, in turn, affects brain health, they said.

ACCC calls time on broadband speeds

The competition watchdog says a lack of transparency around national broadband speeds is hurting the industry and has placed retailers on notice that they may be penalised for misleading claims.


Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims has welcomed the entry of new mobile and fixed broadband competitors but says service providers are not being honest about broadband speeds.

“Right now, consumers are not getting the basic information they need to make an informed choice. Indeed, they are often being misled,” Mr Sims said in Sydney on Thursday.

With many households reporting slower internet speeds after buying access to the taxpayer-funded $49 billion NBN, Mr Sims said broadband was an enforcement priority and expects cases before court this year.

“We are investigating and expect to be taking action in respect of misleading conduct around broadband speeds,” he said.

The competition regulator plans to call out retailers that have sold or are selling broadband services at speeds they cannot deliver.

Addressing the Unwired Revolution Conference, Mr Sims suggested providers would soon be lifting their game when broadband speeds are made public under the regulator’s new Broadband Monitoring Scheme.

The regulator launched a call for volunteers to join the scheme’s testing panel last month and will begin publishing speed and performance data later this year.

“We will highlight – and customers will notice – whether companies are advertising in a transparent or a misleading way,” Mr Sims said.

The ACCC is also examining the opaque relationships between the NBN Co and retail providers that can leave consumers without redress when the service is not up to scratch.

Mr Sims said it was unusual that currently, the ACCC regulates NBN Co’s prices, but not its service standard.

“If consumers are not obtaining redress for NBN Co-caused faults, either because of exclusions in retail contracts, or because of issues in the retailer recovering compensation from NBN Co under the wholesale broadband agreement, that would be of considerable concern to the ACCC,” Mr Sims said.

Audi under fire over commercial showing bride being ‘inspected’ at the altar

The commercial starts with a bride and groom at the altar reciting their vows, before being interrupted by the groom’s mother.


She then roughly inspects the bride’s nose, ears and mouth, the guests looking on in horror, before gesturing that everything is “OK”.

Suddenly the mother looks at the bride’s chest while the woman gasps.

The video then cuts to footage of an Audi car driving, while a voiceover tells viewers that “an important decision must be made carefully”.

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According to the South China Morning Post, the video sparked backlash on Chinese social media, with many calling it sexist and urging the company to apologise.

Some even threatened to stop buying Audi cars.

CNN said Chinese social media site Weibo saw more than 300,000 views of the hashtag “Audi secondhand car ad” by midday on Wednesday.

One user from the city of Guangzhou speculated over the gender of the video’s producers.

“From the inception of this idea to its broadcasting, was there a single woman who worked on this commercial?” the person said.

A spokesman for Audi told the South China Morning Post that the company’s marketing in China was handled by its local joint venture partner, and that an investigation was being conducted.

It’s not the first time a company had been criticised for its marketing decisions in China.

Last year, a local firm apologised after launching a commercial for detergent which showed a black man being put into a washing machine, emerging as a light-skinned Asian man.

In 2012, Snickers also suffered repercussions when it released an ad featuring a tired woman on a bike transforming into an energetic man after eating one of the chocolate bars.