Price-fixing probe targets 3 oil firms

European antitrust authorities have launched investigations into at least three oil companies on suspicion of price-fixing.

Britain’s BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Norway’s Statoil confirmed that they are subjects of the inquiry announced Tuesday by the European Union’s executive arm, the European Commission.

Statoil said a raid at its headquarters in Stavanger, Norway, was carried out with the assistance of Norwegian antitrust officials. Norway is not a member of the E.U. BP and Shell offered no details but said they were cooperating with authorities.

Platts, a division of McGraw-Hill Financial that compiles prices for energy markets, said the commission also visited its London operations Tuesday.

The commission said in a statement Tuesday that it had concerns that oil companies “may have colluded in reporting distorted prices.” Such prices are used to determine the market cost of several energy products in Europe and around the world.

“Even small distortions of assessed prices may have a huge impact on the prices of crude oil, refined oil products and biofuels purchases and sales, potentially harming final consumers,” the commission said.

— Associated Press

Google CEO discloses voice paralysis

Google chief executive Larry Page suffers from voice paralysis, he disclosed Tuesday, answering questions about why he appeared to be shying away from public speaking engagements.

Page made the announcement on his Google+ page, saying that he has been able to fulfill his duties “at home and at work” speaking softly but that it’s more “tedious” for him to speak publicly.

Page’s voice condition has been the subject of speculation since last year’s Google I/O developers conference, when the company said he would not speak at the event or on the company’s next earnings call. That raised questions about whether Google should disclose more about its executives’ health conditions, particularly after the criticism that Apple faced while its chief executive, Steve Jobs, was battling pancreatic cancer. Jobs died in 2011.

Page’s disclosure did not concern investors Tuesday; Google shares rose 1.1 percent, to $877.10.

Page said problems with his voice stemmed from a bad cold he caught about 14 years ago that eventually paralyzed his left vocal cord. Page said his vocal problems resurfaced this past summer — ahead of last year’s developers conference — and that his second vocal cord now has limited movement.

In his posted announcement, Page also said he has funded a research program through the Vocal Health Institute. He did not say whether he’ll speak at this year’s Google developers conference, which kicks off Wednesday.

— Hayley Tsukayama


l  U.S. households reduced debt during the first quarter by 1 percent, to the lowest level since 2006, resuming a de-leveraging trend in the wake of the financial crisis, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Household debt fell to $11.2 trillion in the first quarter, compared with a peak burden of $12.7 trillion in the third quarter of 2008. Consumers reduced debt by $110 billion after increasing their borrowing by $31 billion in the fourth quarter of 2012, while delinquency rates fell “across the board,” the Fed district bank said Tuesday.

l  Third Point chief executive Daniel Loeb proposed that Sony spin off up to 20 percent of its movie, TV and music division and use the money to strengthen its ailing device manufacturing unit. The Japanese electronics giant rejected Loeb’s plan, presented in a Tuesday letter to Sony President Kazuo Hirai that was published in the New York Times. Loeb suggested that Sony take 15 to 20 percent of the entertainment unit public by offering current Sony shareholders the opportunity to buy shares in it. Analysts latched onto the idea as a way for Sony to unlock hidden value.

l  Boeing resumed deliveries of its high-tech 787 Dreamliner jet on Tuesday, ending a period of nearly four months in which it was unable to provide new planes to customers ,because of safety concerns about the battery system. Boeing said it delivered a new Dreamliner to All Nippon Airways on Tuesday, its second delivery of the year. The first was delivered before Jan. 16, when regulators grounded the worldwide Dreamliner fleet after two lithium-ion batteries overheated and smoked on two separate jets. Boeing also reaffirmed Tuesday that it expects to hit its target of delivering more than 60 787s this year.

l  Aereo, the start-up that offers live television broadcasts over the Internet starting at $8 a month, said it will start service in the Atlanta market June 17, following an expansion to Boston on Wednesday. Until this week, the service had been available only in the New York City area. Aereo said Tuesday that it will offer 27 Atlanta-area broadcast channels, plus the Bloomberg TV cable channel. Service will be limited to residents of 55 counties in Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina.

— From news services


l  8:30 a.m.: Producer price index for April released.

l  9:15 a.m.: Industrial production for April released.

l  Earnings: Cisco Systems, Deere, Macy’s.