- - Monday, February 20, 2012

U.S., Mexico reach deal on oil, gas drilling in Gulf

LAS CABOS, Mexico — The United States and Mexico agreed Monday to work together when drilling for oil and gas below their maritime border in the Gulf of Mexico.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Mexico’s foreign minister signed the deal at a ceremony in this Mexican resort as Mexican President Felipe Calderon and U.S. Interior Secretary Kenneth L. Salazar looked on.

Mrs. Clinton said the deal would “ensure safe, efficient, responsible exploration of the oil and gas reservoirs in the Gulf of Mexico.”

“These reservoirs could hold considerable reserves that would benefit the United States and Mexico alike,” she said.

But they don’t necessarily stop neatly at our maritime boundary,” she added. “This could lead to disputes if a company discovers a reservoir that straddles the boundary — disputes, for example, over who should do the extraction and how much they should extract.”

Mrs. Clinton said the agreement will prevent such disputes and create new business opportunities.

BRITAIN

Protesters heckle minister over health care reforms

LONDON — Britain’s health minister was heckled Monday about health care reforms that the government says will improve efficiency but opponents claim threaten the foundation of the country’s state-funded health care service.

Protesters jostled Health Secretary Andrew Lansley as he arrived at the prime minister’s residence for a meeting about the reforms. Demonstrator June Hautot, 75, accused Mr. Lansley of trying to privatize the National Health Service.

Britain’s Conservative-led government is planning an overhaul of the NHS, which provides free treatment to all Britons. The government says the reforms will reduce bureaucracy, improve treatment and give doctors more control over health care management.

Opponents say the changes will give private companies a bigger share of heath care and undermine the system’s universality.

The overstretched health service is Britain’s biggest employer, costing more than $158 billion a year, and is a source of both constant complaints and national pride.

COMICS

CEOs’ clash roils firm behind all-American Archie

NEW YORK — The past three years have been upbeat ones for Archie, the every-teen hero of one of America’s most enduring comics. He’s gotten married — twice, no less. He’s even appeared on a postage stamp.

But behind the scenes, a bitter and sometimes bizarre feud has brewed at the company that produces the more than 70-year-old comic.

In lawsuits, Archie Comic Publications’ co-CEOs Jon Goldwater and Nancy Silberkleit are accusing each other of all sorts of funny business. He’s asked a court to strip her of her role at the company. She has sued him for defamation and $100 million in damages.

A judge vows to appoint a temporary receiver to protect the company’s assets amid the fight if the two sides can’t choose someone on their own by Wednesday.

CHINA

Wal-Mart wants control of online Chinese retailer

BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. plans to buy a controlling interest in the fast-growing Chinese online retailer Yihaodian.

The big-box chain operator has agreed to increase its stake in Yihaodian’s holding company to approximately 51 percent, Wal-Mart said late Sunday.

The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. It still must be approved by Chinese government regulators.

Yihaodian has been in business for fewer than four years. Yet it already sells at least 180,000 products, ranging from groceries to electronics to clothing. It has 5,400 employees and a next-day delivery network across Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Wuhan and Chengdu.

ENERGY

Oil hits 9-month high after Iran halts sales

Oil prices jumped to a nine-month high above $105 a barrel on Monday after Iran said it halted crude exports to Britain and France in an escalation of a dispute over the Middle Eastern country’s nuclear program.

By Monday afternoon, benchmark March crude was up $2.02 to $105.26 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the highest since May. The contract rose 93 cents to settle at $103.24 per barrel in New York on Friday.

Iran’s announcement will likely have minimal impact on supplies, analysts said, because only about 3 percent of France’s oil consumption is from Iranian sources. Britain had not imported oil from the Islamic republic in six months.

“The price rise is more a reflection of concerns about the further escalation in tensions between Iran and the West,” said commodity analyst Caroline Bain of the Economist Intelligence Unit. “Banning the tiny quantities of exports to the U.K. and France involves very little risk for Iran - indeed quite the opposite, it catches the headlines and leads to a higher global oil price, which is something Iran is very keen to encourage.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports


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