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Business news in brief

In the Region

Spark stock sales raise $88.4M

Philadelphia-based Spark Therapeutics, which hopes to make money from gene therapy treatments for rare diseases, said it has raised $88.4 million by selling two million shares of stock. Spark was spun out of the nonprofit Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, which joined in last week's sale by selling one million shares, worth $44.2 million. The hospital, through its foundation, remains the largest stockholder. Spark's most-advanced compound, SPK-RPE65, is new genetic material injected into the eye to treat rare blinding conditions. The latest trial results were encouraging enough that Spark plans to seek approval from the FDA early in 2016. Spark had a $122.6 million deficit as of Sept. 30, 2015. Its shares, which began trading publicly on Jan. 29, reached a high of $77.50 on March 31 and a low of $38.91 on Sept. 29. Shares closed Monday at $44.69, up 56 cents. - David Sell

Comcast disavows deal report

Comcast Corp. spokesman John Demming said Monday that speculation that the Philadelphia-based cable giant could be contemplating a bid for ITV plc, a major British media company with regional TV licenses, is "just completely inaccurate." Britain's Daily Mail newspaper reported on the rumors, saying talks had been held between ITV and NBCUniversal executives. Comcast owns the NBCUniversal entertainment conglomerate. - Bob Fernandez

Drone registration site is live

Recreational drone pilots can now register their small unmanned aircraft at, the Federal Aviation Administration said Monday. Hobbyists who already own a drone, weighing between 0.55 pounds and 55 pounds, have until Feb. 19, 2016 to register. Owners of new drones must register before the first flight. Registration costs $5 and is good for five years. Owners must submit their name, home, and email addresses. The FAA will waive the fee for the first 30 days to encourage participation. Anyone flying a drone after Feb. 19 could face a fine and possible criminal charges, the FAA said. Hundreds of thousands of drones are expected to be received as gifts this holiday season. - Linda Loyd


Average pump price below $2

The nationwide average price for a gallon of regular gasoline Monday fell below $2 for the first time since March 2009. The American Automobile Association reported that the national average reached $1.99 on Monday, a level expected about a month ago. The new low for the year comes as holiday travelers are hitting the road. "Drivers across the country are celebrating the historic return of cheaper gas prices," said Marshall Doney, AAA's president and chief executive. "The lowest gas prices in nearly seven years are a holiday gift that few consumers could have imagined when gasoline was $4 a gallon." AAA said gas prices have dropped because there is more than enough oil and gasoline supply around the world to meet demand. In addition, gas prices generally fall through early winter because people drive less and use less fuel this time of year. - Los Angeles Times

BMW fined $40M over Minis

German automaker BMW has been fined $40 million by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for failing to issue safety recalls in a timely manner to Mini owners. The automaker joins a growing list of companies that have been sanctioned by the safety agency this year for violating U.S. regulations. Earlier this month, NHTSA fined Fiat Chrysler $70 million for underreporting crash, death, and injury data tied to its cars and trucks, bringing total penalties for FCA to $175 million this year. BMW is subject to a fine as well as a series of performance requirements under a consent order. The company acknowledges that it did not issue recalls within the required five days of learning that 2014 and 2015 Mini Cooper models failed to meet regulatory standards for side-impact crash protection. - Detroit Free Press

Chipotle link possible again

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., still reeling from recent outbreaks of E. coli and norovirus at its restaurants, is now being investigated for its link to a new spate of illnesses in three additional states. Five people in Kansas, North Dakota, and Oklahoma have fallen ill from an E. coli strain with a rare DNA fingerprint, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday in a statement. All five, who became sick on dates ranging from Nov. 18 to 26, reported eating at a Chipotle in the week before their illnesses started. The new report may further damage Chipotle's reputation, which has been battered in recent weeks by an outbreak of E. coli that afflicted at least 53 people in nine states. - Bloomberg News

Facebook adds live photos

The latest iPhones come with the ability to turn still images into video - just like magic - but sharing options had been limited to other Apple apps. That's changing as Facebook, one of the leading forums for photo sharing, adds Apple's Live Photos feature to Facebook's iPhone and iPad app. Facebook started offering it Monday to a limited number of users initially, with a broader rollout planned in the coming weeks. - Associated Press