INTERNATIONAL BRIEFING

Friday, August 1, 2008

VENEZUELA

Chávez to Nationalize Spanish-Owned Bank

President Hugo Chávez said he intends to nationalize the Bank of Venezuela, which is owned by the Santander banking group of Spain. Chávez said he made the decision after learning that Santander had contacted a local bank to sell the institution. Under Chávez, Venezuela has nationalized its largest telephone, electricity, steel and cement companies and has assumed majority control over four major oil projects.

MEXICO

U.S. Findings Criticized In Salmonella Outbreak

Mexican agriculture officials said their U.S. counterparts hunting for the source of a salmonella outbreak are rushing to a conclusion about finding the strain at a Mexican pepper farm. The salmonella sample that a U.S. official called "a smoking gun" was taken from a water tank that had not been used to irrigate crops for more than two months, said the director of Mexico's Farm Food Quality Service, Enrique Sanchez. Sanchez said U.S. officials "totally lacked scientific evidence" to make those statements.

ENERGY

BP Chief Has Held Talks With TNK Shareholder

BP chief executive Tony Hayward has held talks with Mikhail Fridman, one of the billionaire Russian shareholders in the Anglo-Russian TNK-BP oil firm, as a shareholder deadlock threatens the future of the joint venture.

Just days after TNK-BP chief Robert Dudley left Russia for an undisclosed location in Central Europe, a spokeswoman for AAR, the Russian shareholders' consortium, said Hayward and Fridman met in the Czech Republic. TNK-BP shareholders are in a bitter row over control and strategy at the oil firm. AAR has called for Dudley's ouster, alleging he has run the firm as a BP subsidiary, while BP has accused the Russian side of using corporate raider tactics to gain control of the firm.

TRADE

U.S. Regains Global Lead In Number of Patents

The United States is again the favored country to patent inventions after 43 years in which Japan and the now-defunct Soviet Union held the lead, a United Nations report said. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office got nearly a quarter of the 1.76 million patents filed worldwide in 2006, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization. About half of the 426,000 U.S. filings in 2006 came from American inventors.

EARNINGS

AstraZeneca, the London pharmaceutical company, said its second-quarter profit rose 13 percent compared with the corresponding period a year earlier, to $1.62 billion. Revenue rose 9 percent, to $7.96 billion.

Compiled from reports by Washington Post staff writers, the Associated Press and Bloomberg.


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