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Economy Briefs

- - Monday, February 27, 2012

ILLINOIS

Motorola Solutions buys $1.17B shares from Icahn

SCHAUMBURG — Motorola Solutions Inc. is buying about $1.17 billion of its stock back from billionaire investor Carl Icahn.

The company, which sells communications equipment to government and corporate customers, also said Monday that board member Vincent Intrieri will resign as part of the transaction. Intrieri is general partner of Icahn Enterprises LP and an Icahn Enterprises G.P. Inc. director.

Motorola Solutions is purchasing approximately 23.7 million of its shares from Icahn at $49.15 apiece under an existing $3 billion repurchase program. Mr. Icahn will still hold a stake in the company after the transaction is completed.

The price of the buyback was 28 cents per share below Friday's close of $49.43 for Motorola Solutions. The company's stock fell 60 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $48.83 in morning trading Monday.

Mr. Icahn is known for buying and shaking up struggling companies, with mixed success. He pushed the original Motorola Inc. to split up, figuring that investors would find its parts more valuable than the whole. Motorola split into two companies in January 2011. Motorola Mobility consists of the consumer-focused cellphone and cable set-top box operations. Motorola Solutions Inc. sells products like police radios and bar-code scanners.

CUBA

Cigar sales increase 9 percent from 2011

HAVANA — Sales of Cuba's famed cigars are hot, despite recession fears in Europe and a U.S. embargo that bars American aficionados from legally lighting them up.

Cuba's national cigar maker Habanos SA says sales totaled $401 million in 2011, a 9 percent rise over the previous year.

While Europe remains the top market for such signature brands as Cohiba, Montecristo, and Romeo y Julieta, sales in Asian nations including China are increasing rapidly.

The figures were announced Monday by Ana Lopez, the head of marketing for the company, a joint venture between the Communist government and the Madrid-based tobacco giant Altadis. She says 2012 will be challenging because of the economic crisis in markets like Spain, and increasing restrictions on tobacco.

ENGLAND

WikiLeaks publishes leaked Stratfor emails

LONDON — WikiLeaks said Monday it was publishing a massive trove of leaked emails from the U.S. intelligence analysis firm Stratfor, shedding light on the inner workings of the Texas-based think tank.

The online anti-secrecy group said it had more than 5 million Stratfor emails and it was putting them out in collaboration with two dozen international media organizations. So far, however, only a small selection of the Stratfor emails appear to have been published to WikiLeaks' website.

"What we have discovered is a company that is a private intelligence Enron," WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told journalists at London's Frontline Club, a reference to the Texas energy giant whose spectacular bankruptcy turned it into a byword for corporate malfeasance.

Mr. Assange accused Stratfor of running a network of paid informants, monitoring activist groups on behalf of major multinationals and making investments based on its secret intelligence.

Stratfor rejected claims there was anything improper in the way it handled its informants.

"Stratfor has worked to build good sources in many countries around the world, as any publisher of global geopolitical analysis would do," the company stated. "We have done so in a straightforward manner and we are committed to meeting the highest standards of professional conduct."

The Stratfor statement suggested the company wouldn't be commenting on Mr. Assange's other allegations.

"Having had our property stolen, we will not be victimized twice by submitting to questioning about them," the statement said.

LOUISIANA

BP, plaintiffs focus on Gulf-spill settlement

NEW ORLEANS — It was supposed to be the week when BP PLC and other companies went on trial for the nation's worst offshore oil spill.

Instead, oil giant BP is getting another week to try to hash out a settlement with a committee overseeing scores of lawsuits arising from the April 2010, explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico. The blast killed 11 workers and led to 206 million gallons of oil spewing from the blown-out well, soiling miles of coastline.

Two people close to the case told the Associated Press the decision to postpone was made Sunday during a conference call involving parties in the case and U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the call.

From wire dispatches and staff reports