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BP sale raises $1.8 billion to help pay for oil spill

MOSCOW — BP raised $1.8 billion Monday to help pay for the cost of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico by selling assets in Venezuela and Vietnam to its own joint venture in Russia.

The transaction will leave half the assets’ equity on BP’s books but give the company an immediate flow of cash for the entire value of the sale. The agreement with TNK-BP, the joint venture, is the first major deal for BP’s new chief executive, Robert Dudley, an American who was appointed to run BP midway through the gulf disaster.

BP has said it will raise $30 billion to pay claims relating to the spill, which killed 11 workers and caused tens of billions of dollars in damages, and has been whittling away at its global portfolio to do so.

BP has raised more than $11 billion, including the sales announced Monday. That includes $7 billion from the sale of fields in the United States, Canada and Egypt to Apache, a midsize energy company, and $1.9 billion for the sale of assets in Colombia to Ecopetrol and Talisman Energy.

For the TNK-BP’s Russians investors, the sell-off comes at a good time. Taxes at home eat up much of the profits of Russian oil companies.

Sales and profit surge for Apple, but its margins slip

SAN FRANCISCO — Strong sales of iPads, iPhones and even Mac computers produced record revenue and profit for Apple in its fourth quarter.

It was not enough, however, to sustain Wall Street’s exuberance for the consumer electronics company that has seemed to do everything right in analysts’ eyes. The company’s shares fell about 6 percent in after-hours trading on Monday after the company announced its results.

Apple said that it sold 14.1 million iPhones in the quarter, ended Sept. 25, an increase of 91 percent from a year earlier. Consumers bought 4.2 million iPads, the tablet computer it introduced in April. Mac sales totaled 3.9 million, up 27 percent.

But buried among quarterly results that any company would be more than happy to emulate was a decline in gross profit margins. Investors disliked the small blemish, sending Apple’s shares down.

“There’s a lot of hype built up into Apple’s earnings,” said Shannon Cross, the managing director of Cross Research. She added, “Everything must go down at some point, I suppose. Clearly, there was pressure on the iPhone gross margins and the iPad.”

Lure of cash erodes pact of silence for miners in Chile

Family members of the 33 miners who were trapped for 69 days had said a special Mass on Sunday would be a chance for the miners to find closure and understanding.

As one of them, Omar Reygadas, 56, left the service and walked with his family to the tent where they had lived while the men were trapped, cameramen and photographers surrounded him. His 2-year-old great-granddaughter was pushed in the mob and began to cry. As Reygadas picked her up, cameramen moved closer, zooming in.

Saying they had signed a pact not to reveal details about their ordeal, the miners have said little since Wednesday’s rescue. Many have made clear, however, that the bidding had begun for their personal accounts, reflecting the complexity behind a feel-good story of hope and perseverance that was always encumbered by the economic challenges faced by Chile’s miners.

“We’re poor — look at the place we live,” Quispe said, squinting under the desert sun. “You live off our stories, so why can’t we make money from this opportunity to feed our children?”

Miners have asked for as little as $40 and upward of $25,000 for interviews. Some media outlets have offered to fly miners to Japan, Germany or Italy for exclusives. Some reporters who spent weeks living in Camp Hope, the tent village that sprang up when families gravitated to the site, exchanged letters with miners underground and were asked for large sums for interviews once the miners were out.

Officials push to bolster law on wiretapping

WASHINGTONLaw enforcement and counterterrorism officials, citing lapses in compliance with surveillance orders, are pushing to overhaul a federal law that requires phone and broadband carriers to ensure that their networks can be wiretapped, federal officials say.

The officials say tougher legislation is needed because some telecommunications companies in recent years have begun new services and made system upgrades that create technical obstacles to surveillance. They want to increase legal incentives and penalties aimed at pushing carriers like Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast to ensure that any network changes will not disrupt their ability to conduct wiretaps.

An Obama administration task force that includes officials from the Justice and Commerce departments, the FBI and other agencies recently began working on draft legislation to strengthen and expand a 1994 law requiring carriers to make sure their systems can be wiretapped. There is not yet agreement over the details, according to officials familiar with the deliberations, but they said the administration intends to submit a package to Congress next year.

To bolster their case, security agencies are citing two previously undisclosed episodes in which major carriers were stymied for weeks or even months when they tried to comply with court-approved wiretap orders in criminal or terrorism investigations, the officials said.