News Archive

Exclusive: Carlyle looks to sell Landmark Aviation for $1.7 billion

Private equity firm Carlyle Group LP (CG.O) has been exploring a sale of aircraft leasing and maintenance company Landmark Aviation for as much as $1.7 billion, including debt, people familiar with the matter said on Friday.

The business jet market is slowly recovering from a downturn sparked by the global financial crisis, helping valuations for companies offering services to that industry.

Carlyle initially looked at cashing out of Landmark via a stock market listing, but in the past few months has broadened out that process to include a possible outright sale.

Two of the sources said that Landmark Aviation’s earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) were around $170 million over a trailing 12-month period.

The sources asked not to be identified because the deliberations are not public.

Carlyle declined to comment. Representatives for Landmark Aviation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Houston, Texas-based Landmark Aviation provides engine maintenance, repair and overhaul, and nose-to-tail services that include airframe, interior refurbishments, paint and charter management for private aircraft.

A peer of Landmark Aviation, Scottsdale, Arizona-based aircraft maintenance services company StandardAero, was sold by Dubai Aerospace Enterprise Ltd to buyout firm Veritas Capital Fund Management LLC in July for $2.1 billion.

In 2007, Carlyle had sold Landmark Aviation to state-owned Dubai Aerospace, which simultaneously purchased StandardAero in a joint transaction valued at $1.8 billion.

Dubai Aerospace sold Landmark Aviation to private equity firms GTCR LLC and Platform Partners a year later. Carlyle then purchased Landmark Aviation in 2012.

Separately, Carlyle announced the acquisition of cyber security firm Novetta Solutions on Thursday. Carlyle purchased McLean, Virginia-based Novetta from Arlington Capital Partners for $555 million, according to a source familiar with the deal.

Carlyle and Novetta declined to comment, Arlington Capital did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Mike Stone in New York; Editing by Carmel Crimmins and Lisa Shumaker)

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Exclusive: Russia’s Kaspersky threatened to ‘rub out’ rival, email shows

SAN FRANCISCO In 2009, Eugene Kaspersky, co-founder of one of the world’s top security companies, told some of his lieutenants that they should attack rival antivirus software maker AVG Technologies N.V. (AVG.N) by “rubbing them out in the outhouse,” one of several previously undisclosed emails shows.

He was quoting from Vladimir Putin’s famous threat a decade earlier to pursue Chechen rebels wherever they were: “If we catch them in the toilet, then we will rub them out in the outhouse.”

Former employees say that the reprisal Kaspersky was pushing for was to trick AVG’s antivirus software into producing false positives – that is, misclassifying clean computer files as infected.

As previously reported by Reuters, the plan involved creating fake virus samples and malware identifications to fool competitors into disabling or deleting important files, thereby creating problems for their customers.

“More and more I get the desire to smack them with their falses,” Kaspersky wrote in Russian in one email seen by Reuters, dated July 23, 2009. He accused AVG of poaching staff from his company. “AVG is carrying out an HR attack on the company, mostly the managers.”

The emails shed fresh light on the allegations of two former Kaspersky Lab employees that the Moscow-based company had sought to sabotage rivals to gain market share and retaliate against competitors it believed were mimicking its malware detections instead of relying on their own research.

Kaspersky Lab has strongly denied the allegations. On Friday, it said the emails “may not be legitimate and were obtained from anonymous sources that have a hidden agenda.”

“Kaspersky Lab has never conducted any secret campaign to trick competitors into generating false positives to damage their market standing. Such actions are unethical, dishonest and illegal,” the company said in a statement.

The ex-employees told Reuters that AVG, Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) and Avast Software were among the companies targeted by Kaspersky Lab in campaigns between 2009 and 2013 to spread false positives through threat information-sharing programs.

“To be honest, I’ll feel pretty bad when AVG goes public and earns a billion. They won’t say thanks to you or me – don’t even hope,” Kaspersky wrote in another email seen by Reuters, dated Oct. 8, 2009.

“‘Rubbing out’ – is one of the methods, which we will DEFINITELY use in combination with other methods.”

A day earlier, Kaspersky had urged his team in another email to consider “rubbing them out in the outhouse,” noting that his European chief was “very positive about falses.” The emails do not confirm that an attack was launched against AVG or say how effective it might have been.

AVG’s former chief technology officer, Yuval Ben-Itzhak, previously told Reuters the company was hit with waves of doctored virus samples from 2009 to 2013.

AVG, Microsoft and Avast have all declined comment on who might have been behind the sophisticated assaults. AVG did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the emails.


In the emails, Eugene Kaspersky did not give specifics on the “rubbing out” method that he envisioned using against AVG. But he said it was a trick that the company had used against a competitor in China years ago. He did not identify the company in the email.

“We’ve already had an experience ‘rubbing out’ – in China. In year 2002-2003. And we did end up moving one of then-market leaders,” Kaspersky wrote.

A former Kaspersky Lab employee said the Chinese target was Beijing Jiangmin New Science Technology Co, one of the biggest antivirus companies in the country at the time. Jiangmin General Manager Guo Changsheng declined to comment.

In 2002, Kaspersky Lab had been struggling to gain traction in the massive Chinese market, where piracy was rampant in the software industry, according to former employees.

Jiangmin did well in part because it copied Kaspersky Lab’s identifications of malicious software files, said two former software engineers at Jiangmin, and a Chinese expert who had worked with both companies. The three sources spoke on condition of anonymity.

After repeated threats and attempts to reach a licensing deal with Jiangmin failed, the Chinese expert said, Kaspersky Lab began to fake some of its malware detections in China in order to cause problems on Jiangmin’s customer machines when the Chinese company copied them.

Kaspersky Lab did this to protect itself from more piracy, the Chinese expert said, adding that the campaign worked. “All of a sudden, customers came to Kaspersky.”

Jiangmin’s general manager declined to comment on the allegations that the company copied Kaspersky Lab’s detections. He also declined to comment on whether Jiangmin had suffered from false detections during the period in question.

Kaspersky Lab has previously said that it too had been hit with fake virus samples. It declined to provide copies of the samples or give other details.

It is not known how much business Kaspersky Lab may have gained in China or elsewhere as a result of these alleged attacks.

In one of the emails, Eugene Kaspersky said the China attack, which he called a “rubber bomb,” was a success. The term “rubber bomb” comes from a Russian joke about an explosive that keeps bouncing and inflicting more damage.

“Something tells me that without that ‘rubber bomb,’ things wouldn’t be so rosy for us in China,” Kaspersky wrote in the Oct. 8, 2009 email.

(Additional reporting by Gerry Shih in Beijing and Alina Selyukh in Washington; Editing by Tiffany Wu)

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Unions set sights on e-commerce and manufacturing firms after NLRB ruling

U.S. union leaders said on Friday that a landmark U.S. labor board ruling on companies’ obligations toward contract and franchise workers would help them organize manufacturers and e-commerce companies as well as fast food chains.

On Thursday the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled the owner of a California recycling plant was a “joint employer” with the contractor that hired workers at the plant, essentially forcing both to bargain with the union together or risk violating U.S. labor law.

Business groups, arguing that the ruling could lead to higher costs and hurt the economy, are pushing the Republican-led Congress to overturn it, in part it because the company named in the decision – Browning-Ferris – cannot challenge it in a federal court without overcoming a number of procedural hurdles.

Unions see the decision as a breakthrough not just in efforts to help employees organizes at franchisees of McDonald’s Corp (MCD.N) and other chains but also as a tool to counter the proliferation of subcontracting in other industries in which workers are one or two steps removed from the companies indirectly controlling them.

Manufacturers including auto workers, food processors, steelmakers and aerospace companies are potential targets for union campaigns, said Elizabeth Bunn, director of the AFL-CIO’s organizing department, noting that plant workers are often not directly employed by the parent firm.

“You literally can walk into almost any non-union manufacturing plant in the United States and you’ll see workers working on a line and not be able to distinguish who is temp from an agency and who is a direct employee of the company,” she said.

Big labor has focused much of its resources over the past few years on pushing for higher wages in the fast-food industry, and the Browning-Ferris ruling could have implications for an ongoing NLRB case seeking to hold McDonald accountable as a “joint employer” for alleged violations at franchisees.


But union organizers see Thursday’s ruling as paving the way for gains across a range of industries given the widespread use of subcontracting by the manufacturing and service sectors to lower costs.

“It’s certainly a game changer,” said Teague Paterson, a partner at Beeson Tayer Bodine, a law firm representing the union in the NLRB case. “Unions and workers have been frustrated by these triangulated relations that the board condoned in the past. It certainly opens the door to more organizing.”

Rand Wilson, a veteran organizer and a communications and policy director at a Massachusetts chapter of the Services Employees International Union, said he saw potential in warehousing, cleaning services and health care.

Another segment widely cited by organizers and labor experts is the warehouses of companies like Inc (AMZN.O), Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) and Google Inc (GOOGL.O), which are often filled with workers from staffing agencies or contract firms.

The Teamsters union recently won an election to represent warehouse and shipping workers at Google Express, the technology giant’s shopping delivery service. The workers are employed through staffing firm Adecco (ADEN.VX).

Rome Aloise, president of the Teamsters in Northern California, said the Browning-Ferris ruling means Google will now have to be part of the discussions about working conditions with the union and the contractor.

“This is a classic case. We won and are going into negotiations and now Google will have to come to the table.”

It was a local branch of the Teamsters that originally brought the complaint about a union election at the Browning-Ferris recycling plant to the labor relations board, and the union has been active in organizing truck drivers and warehouse workers at delivery companies and tech firms.

Amazon, Google and Adecco were not immediately available for comment. Wal-Mart spokesman Brian Nick said the company was still reviewing the decision but has concerns.


Challenging the ruling in court will not be easy, opponents say, because a court could only take up the case if closely-held Browning-Ferris refuses to negotiate with the workers’ union. “This will not be resolved quickly,” said Browning-Ferris’s attorney Stuart Newman. He declined to specifically comment on the company’s next legal steps.

Trade groups have little to no legal recourse, since they were not the subject of the NLRB’s ruling.

“The litigation strategy is somewhere between challenging and nonexistent, and of course the NLRB knows that,” said Michael Layman, a vice-president at the International Franchise Association on Friday.

Instead, the IFA and other groups said they would focus their efforts on Congress, which could write its own definition of employer responsibility for contract workers into law or pass a resolution blocking use of the new NLRB standard.

The Republican chairmen of congressional committees with oversight of labor issues, Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Rep. John Kline of Minnesota, both pledged to introduce legislation that would roll back the decision.

But any bill targeting Browning-Ferris would join other Republican measures aimed at reversing NLRB decisions that have yet to become law, and would likely face a veto as long as a Democrat is in the Oval Office, said Walter Olson, a senior fellow who tracks labor law at the libertarian Cato Institute.

“The politics are such that, even though Republicans have strong majorities in both houses of Congress, the NLRB is considered enough of a party-line issue that a bill would get a presidential veto,” Olson said.

(Additional reporting by Daniel Wiessner, Robert Iafolla and Mari Saito; Editing by Peter Henderson, Christian Plumb and Alan Crosby)

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Fed says rate hike next month hinges on market volatility

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. The Federal Reserve on Friday left the door open to a September interest rate hike even while several U.S. central bank officials acknowledged that turmoil in financial markets, if prolonged, could delay the first policy tightening in nearly a decade.

Some top policymakers, including Fed Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer, said recent volatility in global markets could quickly ease and possibly pave the way for the U.S. rate hike, for which investors, governments and central banks around the world are bracing.

With a key policy meeting set for Sept. 16-17, at least five Fed officials spoke publicly in what amounted to a jockeying for position on whether increasing the Fed’s benchmark overnight lending rate was too risky amid an economic slowdown in China, a rising U.S. dollar .DXY and falling commodity prices XAU= CMCU3.

“It’s early to tell,” Fischer told CNBC on the sidelines of the annual central banking conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. “We’re still watching how it unfolds.” He, along with other Fed officials, acknowledged that the global equities sell-off that began last week would influence the timing of a rate hike, which until only a couple of weeks ago seemed increasingly likely to occur in September.

Concerns about China’s economy have whipsawed markets, including Wall Street, even while U.S. economic data has been robust. U.S. stock indexes ended largely unchanged, capping a week that included both the market’s worst day in four years and biggest two-day gain since the 2007-2009 financial crisis.

“I think they could settle fairly quickly,” said Fischer, a close ally of Fed Chair Janet Yellen.

St. Louis Fed President James Bullard told Reuters he still favored hiking rates next month, though he added that his colleagues would be hesitant to do so if global markets continued to be volatile in mid-September.

The Fed’s policy committee “does not like to move right in the middle of a global financial storm,” Bullard, a Fed hawk, said in an interview. “So one of the advantages we have is that this storm is occurring now and, at least as of now, we think it will be settled down” by the September meeting.

The comments suggest the next two and a half weeks will be critical for the Fed as well as for global markets. A U.S. rate hike is expected to hit emerging market equities and currencies particularly hard, adding to the sell-offs already seen.

The American economy, however, continues to shine despite longer-term concerns about low inflation.

The U.S. government reported this week that the economy grew at a 3.7 percent annualized pace in the second quarter, sharply higher than its previous estimate, and that consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of economic activity, rose again in July.


Investors and economists have been betting the Fed would delay a policy tightening to December or later, prolonging the monetary stimulus that has kept rates at rock-bottom levels for more than six years and has pumped trillions of dollars into the global banking system.

But after Fischer spoke, traders added to bets that a rate hike would come this year, with overnight indexed swap rates implying a 35 percent chance the Fed would move in September and a 77 percent chance of a December move.

Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart, a centrist who has become less resolute about a September rate hike as markets have tumbled, told Bloomberg TV that it was reasonable to see the odds of a move next month as roughly even.

One idea appearing to gain ground on Friday hinged on the Fed raising rates once or twice and then holding off until inflation started to rise to its 2 percent target. A strong dollar and lower oil prices CLc1 LCOc1 have kept a lid on prices despite an unemployment rate that is close to normal at 5.3 percent.

Bullard told Reuters the Fed could hike rates once then “hang out” at that level if inflation remains too low.

Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester, another so-called hawk who, like Bullard, sometimes runs against the grain at the central bank, said the economy still could handle a modest rate hike, though she did not commit to backing a move next month.

“I want to take the time I have between now and the September meeting to evaluate all the economic information that’s come in, including recent volatility in markets and the reasons behind that,” she was quoted as saying by the Wall Street Journal.

The Fed decision has drawn unusually intense interest from both foreign central bankers, who will have to respond, and from Americans on both the right and left.

The conservative American Principles Project held speeches at a nearby hotel urging a prompt rate hike. Meanwhile, a floor below the main Federal Reserve conference space, the Center for Popular Democracy hosted workers and economists calling on the Fed to keep rates low to get more Americans back to work.

The Fed needs to re-think “full employment in a way that recognizes the high joblessness of black and Latino communities,” Sarita Turner of PolicyLink told about 60 advocates, noting that U.S. joblessness among blacks is twice that of whites.

Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota, a dove who wants to stand pat on rates until the second half of 2016, said in an interview China’s slowdown heightens the risk of a U.S. shock. “There’s just no reason to go now,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Jason Lange and Krista Hughes in Washington; Editing by Paul Simao and James Dalgleish)

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FedEx pilot union’s executive council votes in favor of labor contract

FedEx Corp (FDX.N) pilot union’s executive council has voted in favor of a tentative contract that seeks better employment terms including higher hourly pay rates and retirement plan enhancement, the Air Line Pilots Association said.

The FedEx master executive council (MEC) voted late on Thursday to approve the collective bargaining agreement reached on Aug. 19 with the package delivery company, the association said on Friday.

More than 4,000 FedEx pilots will now vote on the agreement in balloting scheduled to begin on Sept. 28 and end on Oct. 20.

FedEx and its pilots have been negotiating on employment conditions since 2011 and the company filed for a mediation process with the National Mediation Board in October last year.

If ratified, the contract will go into effect in November and it will become amendable in 2021.

“We are pleased with the MEC’s decision and are confident our pilots will recognize that this is an agreement that keeps them at the pinnacle of their profession,” FedEx spokesman Jim McCluskey told Reuters.

(Reporting by Ankit Ajmera and Ramkumar Iyer in Bengaluru; Editing by Kirti Pandey)

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Wall Street ends flat in quiet end to dramatic week

NEW YORK Wall Street ended a tumultuous week with a flat close on Friday as investors shrugged off concerns that a September rate rise was more likely than some investors expected.

Shares traded lower earlier in the session after Fed Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer told CNBC the Fed had not yet decided whether to raise interest rates in September. However, the market largely recovered in the final moments of trade. (Full Story)

After several volatile sessions that at one point pushed the SP 500 to its lowest level since October 2014, the three major U.S. indices ended the week with gains.

“A lot of investors are rebalancing their portfolios before going into the weekend,” said Randy Frederick, managing director of trading and derivatives for Charles Schwab in Austin.

Many on Wall Street have been hoping the recent global market turbulence and worries about China’s economy would lead the Fed to hold off raising rates. This expectation was reinforced on Wednesday by comments from New York Fed President William Dudley. (Full Story)

However, following Fischer’s comments on Friday, overnight indexed swap rates implied traders now see a 35 percent chance the Fed would raise rates in September, up from 22 percent earlier in the week.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI ended down 0.07 percent at 16,643.01 while the SP 500 .SPX edged up 0.06 percent to 1,988.87.

The Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 0.32 percent to end at 4,828.33, driven by a 2.52 pct rise in Intel Corp INTC.O.

For the week, the Dow gained 1.1 percent, the SP rose 0.9 percent and the Nasdaq added 2.6 percent.

The SP remains down more than 5 percent from when the market began to sell off on August 18. The turmoil has prompted several strategists to cut their end-of-year forecasts for indexes.

Credit Suisse, for example, cut its year-end target for the SP 500 to 2,100 from 2,200 on Friday.

Half of the 10 major sectors rose, with the energy index .SPNY jumping 2 percent as oil added to gains. O/R. The utilities index .SPLRCU lost 0.42 percent.

Chevron’s CVX.N 3.6 percent gain provided the biggest boost to the Dow and the SP 500.

Data released on Friday showed U.S. consumer spending picked up a bit in July, further evidence of strength in the economy. (Full Story)

Autodesk ADSK.O dropped 4.96 percent after the maker of computer-aided design software cut its full-year profit and revenue forecast. (Full Story)

Big Lots BIG.N was jumped 15.67 percent after its second-quarter profit beat expectations and the company raised its full-year adjusted profit forecast.

While the Dow and SP were negative, advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,917 to 1,114. On the Nasdaq, 1,882 issues rose and 877 fell.

The SP 500 index showed one new 52-week high and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 21 new highs and 22 new lows.

Volume was lighter than in recent days. About 7.8 billion shares traded on U.S. exchanges, compared to an average of 11.2 billion in the past five sessions, according to BATS Global Markets.

(Additional reporting by Tanya Agrawal; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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United Airlines to revamp scheduling to fight flight delays

CHICAGO United Airlines plans to change the way it schedules flights and to use new technology to tackle the delays and cancellations that have hurt its competitiveness, company executives told Reuters.

The new initiatives aim to narrow the gap in performance between United Continental Holdings Inc (UAL.N) and Delta Air Lines Inc (DAL.N), which has the best on-time record of U.S. airlines. They reflect a broader effort by United to boost customer and investor confidence following high-profile glitches that halted flights twice this summer, causing widespread delays.

United plans in January to alter its schedules to resemble the way rivals circulate planes through their networks, Vice President of Network Operations Tracy Lee told Reuters.

Lee declined to elaborate on the changes but said they could result in an immaterial decrease in capacity because some planes could spend fewer hours in the air.

About 75 percent of United flights arrived on time in the first half of this year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the worst record among the four largest U.S. airlines. Delta had about 84 percent of its flights arrive on time, while Southwest Airlines Co (LUV.N) and American Airlines Group Inc (AAL.O) each had on-time arrival rates of about 78 percent.

Many of Chicago-based United’s flights originate in hubs that are congested or often hit by winter storms.

“Delta is running a very good airline, and I want to equal that,” Lee said.

United grew revenue nearly 5 percent from 2012 through 2014 to $38.9 billion, while Delta has grown revenue twice as fast to $40.4 billion.

United, the world’s second-largest airline by capacity, is investing in back-end technology and training to quell risks, Chief Information Officer Linda Jojo said in her first media interview since taking over the airline’s top technology job in 2014. United is also developing new systems to get flights to their gates and off the ground faster.

The carrier started a trial this spring of an automated system, built in-house, to tell agents to prolong boarding so passengers with tight connections can make their flights, she said.

“We know your plane landed,” she said. “How can we use data and analytics to actually hold that door open for you?” The move saves United the costs of rebooking.

Later this year, United plans to test tracking devices embedded in badges worn by those who clean the planes, which would alert gate agents when the aircraft is ready to board, Jojo said. That could shave minutes off the time planes spend on the ground.

Jojo said United is taking additional steps to defend against cyber attacks. The airline has not suffered a breach of its data systems, except for isolated cases in which hackers accessed mileage accounts by guessing a customer’s weak password or using passwords leaked elsewhere.

United tested the methods that hacker Chris Roberts said he used to gain access to a United flight’s controls through its entertainment system, she said.

“I know it’s not possible,” she said, adding that continued changes in aircraft systems make security a “moving target.”

The U.S. Government Accountability Office in April called for further investigation into whether flight controls could be accessed remotely via other data systems.

(Reporting by Jeffrey Dastin; Editing by Joe White and Phil Berlowitz)

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Oil extends short-covering frenzy to second day, topping $50

NEW YORK World oil prices roared back to $50 a barrel in the second day of a frenetic short-covering rally on Friday, with violence in Yemen, a storm in the Gulf and refinery outages helping extend the biggest two-day rally in six years.

Oil had tumbled in tandem with stocks over much of the past week, hitting 6-1/2-year lows below $40 a barrel as Chinese financial tumult stoked fears of slowing growth. Oil rallied on Thursday as equities rebounded, but on Friday oil kept pushing higher even as equity markets were calm.

Dealers said a handful of emerging risks fed oil’s gains. Warplanes from a Saudi-led coalition killed 10 people in air raids over Yemen; Tropical Storm Erika moved closer to Florida, prompting worries about oil and gas installations in the U.S. Gulf.

Brent, the global oil benchmark LCOc1, closed up $2.49, or 5 percent, at $50.05, after nearly reaching $51 a barrel. It gained 10 percent on the week.

U.S. crude’s front-month contract snapped an eight-week losing streak, rising $2.66, or 6.3 percent, to settle at $45.22 a barrel. At its session high, it was up more than $3, or 7 percent at nearly $46. For the week, it rose 12 percent.

“A severely oversold and shorted oil market is creating a bid for covering,” said Chris Jarvis, analyst at Caprock Risk Management in Frederick, Maryland.

U.S. crude’s 17 percent gain over the past two sessions was the second largest in 25 years. Yet prices remain at half their year-ago level. Traders noted a lingering global glut of oil supplies, and said the rally was largely fueled by a rush by market players to exit a crowded bearish trade.

Late on Friday, U.S. data showed that big hedge funds had slightly increased their bullish net long bets on U.S. crude in the week through Tuesday. But gross short positions barely dipped, leaving a near record number of bearish bets poised to cover as prices turned higher later in the week.

In Europe, diesel prices LGOc1 led gains in the complex, rising nearly 8 percent after Genscape said Shell’s (RDSa.L) 404,000 bpd crude distillation unit in Pernis, Rotterdam, was offline, a day after a brief shutdown.

New York gasoline RBc1 prices jumped after news that Phillips 66 (PSX.N) had unexpectedly shut down a 150,000-barrel-per-day fluid catalytic cracker at its refinery in Linden, New Jersey, although the contract ended up only 4 percent as the unit was expected to restart this weekend.

A global glut of fuel and sluggish demand have cut oil prices in half from a year ago. Worries over China’s economy have also weighed on the market in recent weeks.Some analysts said the two-month slump of nearly 30 percent meant a rebound was due.

But others were convinced the rally would sputter, pushing prices lower again.

Spreads between spot and one-year forward U.S. crude CLc1-CLc12 were little changed on Friday, suggesting little improvement in fundamentals of oil.

U.S. energy companies added one rig to their fields over the past week, a sixth consecutive gain that is expected to temper the decline in domestic production over coming months.

(Additional reporting by Christopher Johnson in London and Meeyoung Cho and Aaron Sheldrick in Seoul; Editing by Alden Bentley and Jonathan Leff)

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Man linked to JPMorgan hacking in talks to resolve U.S. case: filing

NEW YORK A Florida man accused of running an unlicensed bitcoin exchange and who is among five defendants linked to last summer’s massive data breach at JPMorgan Chase Co is in talks to resolve his criminal case, according to court papers filed Friday.

In a court filing in federal court in Manhattan, a prosecutor said Yuri Lebedev, one of two men charged with operating the bitcoin exchange service, was in discussions “regarding a possible disposition of this case.”

The filing used language that is usually indicative of plea talks, though cases in some instances can be resolved with deferred prosecution agreements or with charges being dropped.

Eun Young Choi, a prosecutor under Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara who made the submission, said negotiations were not yet complete and sought an extension until Sept. 28 for when a grand jury would need to indict Lebedev.

A federal magistrate judge has granted that request, according to court papers.

A spokesman for Bharara declined comment. Mark Bernett, Lebedev’s lawyer, did not respond to requests for comment.

Should a plea deal be reached, it could be a breakthrough for authorities investigating the hacking of JPMorgan, which compromised information in 83 million household and small business accounts.

U.S. and Israeli authorities arrested four people in Israel and Florida in July in connection with two separate fraud schemes.

While the cases appeared distinct and made no mention of the JPMorgan hacking, a person familiar with the matter said both actions stemmed from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s investigation of the cyberattack.

In one indictment, U.S. authorities accused Lebedev and another Florida man, Anthony Murgio, of operating an underground bitcoin exchange, called, that was used to facilitate criminal activity including cyberattacks.

In another indictment, authorities accused three men of engaging in a stock manipulation scheme involving U.S. penny stocks.

In that case, Gery Shalon and Ziv Orenstein, both Israeli nationals, were arrested, and the U.S. government has sought their extradition.

Joshua Samuel Aaron, a U.S. citizen who resides in Moscow and Tel Aviv, remains at large, authorities have said.

The case is U.S. v. Lebedev, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 15-mj-02501.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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