The daily business briefing: February 16, 2016

Harold Maass
AP Photo/ Hasan Jamali
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Saudi Arabia and Russia tentatively agree to freeze oil output

The oil ministers of Saudi Arabia and Russia — the world's two largest oil producers — announced Tuesday that they would freeze oil output at January's levels, if other major producers do, too. They were joined by their counterparts from Qatar and Venezuela. The Venezuelan oil minister said he would discuss the freeze with Iran and Iraq on Wednesday, although Iran is an obstacle because it is vowing to increase production. The ministers met in Doha to discuss a global oil glut that has driven prices to their lowest levels in more than a decade. [Bloomberg, Reuters]


Comcast outage affects customers across the U.S.

Comcast customers across the nation lost internet, cable TV, or phone service on Monday. The massive outage sparked a torrent of complaints on Twitter using the #ComcastOutage hashtag. The company acknowledged the problem but did not identify the cause. By the afternoon Comcast said it had restored "almost all services." Down Detector, which tracks such outages, said affected communities included the San Francisco Bay area, and much of the East Coast, including Fort Lauderdale, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and Boston. [CNN, Engadget]


404-carat diamond found in Angola

The Australia-based Lucapa Diamond Company has found a 404-carat diamond in Angola. The nearly three-inch-long diamond, worth up to $20 million, is the 27th largest ever discovered, and the biggest ever found in Angola, which is the world's fourth-largest diamond producer. The largest diamond ever was 3,100 carats. That diamond, the Cullinan Diamond, was found in South Africa in 1905. It was split into nine parts, with the largest mounted on a golden scepter in the British Crown Jewels. [NBC News, New York Daily News]


Royal Dutch Shell completes $50 billion acquisition of BG Group

Royal Dutch Shell on Monday completed its $50 billion purchase of Britain's BG Group, making it the second largest energy company in the world, behind Exxon Mobil. "This is an important moment for Shell," CEO Ben van Beurden said. "It significantly boosts our reserves and production." The deal gives Shell a dominant role in Brazil's lucrative offshore oil fields. The Anglo-Dutch company spent nearly a year convincing investors the deal made sense despite a global oil glut. [MarketWatch, USA Today]


1970s Chrysler leader John Riccardo dies at 91

Former Chrysler Corp. CEO and chairman John J. Riccardo, who led the automaker through a crisis that nearly brought down the company in the 1970s, has died. He was 91. Riccardo rose through the ranks at Chrysler before taking over in 1975. He was best known for requesting government loans to keep the car company from going under. He also recruited former Ford executive Lee Iacocca to succeed him and continue the effort to save the company. [The Detroit News]