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China’s quest for energy is a game-changer for central Asia

ATYRAU, Kazakhstan — On the northern reaches of the Caspian Sea, not far from this old Soviet town known for its oil and sturgeon, lies a vast new oil find, the biggest outside the Middle East. China was rebuffed when it asked for a stake 10 years ago.

But when the pumps finally started this month, the China National Petroleum Corp. had won a share in the project, known as Kashagan, and President Xi Jinping was in the region recently to celebrate, another indication that China’s influence has eclipsed even Russia’s across the former Soviet republics of Central Asia.

China’s urgent quest for energy is the main driver of its strategic interest in a region close to home, where proximity allows huge reserves of oil and gas to be moved overland through Chinese-built pipelines rather than by ship through American-dominated sea lanes from the Middle East.

Here in Kazakhstan, Xi formalized the $5 billion deal for Kashagan that for the first time places China in a consortium alongside the big international players: Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and the Italian company, ENI.

—Jane Perlez and Bree Feng, The New York Times

Record cocaine haul in France raises security questions

PARIS — A record haul of cocaine, found in glossy, bright suitcases on an Air France arrival from Venezuela, is raising a multitude of questions about the security of the baggage scanning system and the possibility of collusion either by airport or airline staff both in Venezuela and France.

The seizure this month was disclosed Saturday by the interior minister, Manuel Valls, but French officials would not specify when they had impounded the cocaine or the exact circumstances.

Valls, who showed the cocaine, tightly wrapped in plastic packaging, to French television, said there had been 1.3 metric tons, or about 2,900 pounds, with a value of $67 million. Others put the value considerably higher.

As of Monday, six people were in police custody, said a spokeswoman for the Paris prosecutor’s office, Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre. She said that not one of the six was French, but news agencies reported that three were British and three were Italian. And, in Venezuela, three members of the National Guard were detained.

The haul was remarkable both for the amount, the largest ever in France, and because it arrived by air, said Thomas Pietschmann, research officer at the Studies and Threat Analysis section of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Vienna, which tracks drug trafficking worldwide.

“To have one ton on an airplane is exceptionally high,” Pietschmann said. “It starts from a few grams to a few kilos.”

—Alissa J. Rubin, The New York Times

Blackberry reaches $4.7 billion deal to go private

BlackBerry said on Monday that it had reached an agreement to be taken private by a group led by Fairfax Financial Holdings.

The company signed a letter of intent that would pay shareholders $9 a share in cash, a deal which values the faltering smartphone maker at about $4.7 billion, according to a media release. Fairfax already owns 10 percent of BlackBerry.

BlackBerry entered into the agreement on the recommendation of a special committee of its board, which has been evaluating strategic options for the company as its market share has continued to erode in recent months.

Fairfax and its co-investors are seeking financing from Bank of America Merrill Lynch and BMO Capital Markets.

BlackBerry and Fairfax agreed to complete due diligence by Nov. 4. During this time, BlackBerry is permitted to enter into talks with other potential acquirers. The press release did not identify the other investors joining with Fairfax. “The special committee is seeking the best available outcome for the company’s constituents, including for shareholders,” Barbara Stymiest, BlackBerry’s chairwoman, said in a statement. “Importantly, the go-shop process provides an opportunity to determine if there are alternatives superior to the present proposal from the Fairfax consortium.”

If BlackBerry backs out of the potential Fairfax deal or finds another buyer, it would owe Fairfax a fee of 30 cents a share, or $157 million. It would owe Fairfax $262 million if it walked away from a signed agreement.

—David Gelles and Ian Austen, The New York Times

After re-election, Merkel moves to form new German government

BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel took steps on Monday to form a new government, a day after she scored a stunning personal triumph in German national elections that cemented her position as the most powerful politician in Europe.

Merkel became the only major European leader to be re-elected twice since the financial crisis of 2008, winning a strong popular endorsement for her mix of austerity and solidarity in managing the troubled eurozone.

On Monday morning, Merkel met with leaders of her center-right Christian Democratic party to discuss strategy for forming a coalition government, most likely with the center-left Social Democrats, who finished second in the polling. The negotiations are likely to take weeks or months, extending a de facto moratorium on European decision-making that has been in effect during the German election campaign. Merkel said Monday that she did not expect German policy toward the eurozone to change, a statement that is likely to come as a disappointment to other European leaders who hoped she would be open to bolder action once the election was behind her.

The surprising show of strength for Merkel and the Christian Democrats — even their own polls had not suggested 41.5 percent of the popular vote — was just short of an absolute majority, according to preliminary results published on Monday. No chancellor has achieved an absolute majority since Konrad Adenauer in 1957.

—Alison Smale and Jack Ewing, The New York Times