Losing Patents, Gilding Records

Bayer loses a patent ruling on its bestselling drug, Yasmin. Gold, oil, and platinum all hit new highs as investors fly to safety. And Americans may not be stuffing the piggy bank, but corporate America is.


Bayer hit by loss of top drug patent

A U.S. court invalidated German drugmaker Bayer AG’s patent on its oral contraceptive Yasmin, sending Bayer shares to their lowest level in a year early today. The ruling opened the door for Barr Pharmaceuticals to sell a generic version in the U.S. (Reuters) The ruling also threatened Bayer’s newer Yaz contraceptive. Yasmin, and its family of derivative contraceptives, are Bayer’s bestsellers, bringing in $1.58 billion in annual sales. Yasmin alone earned $488 million in the U.S. last year. “I don’t think the market expected this to happen at all,” said analyst Ulle Woerner at Landesbank Baden-Wuerttemberg in Stuttgart. “This is quite a hit for Bayer.” (Bloomberg)

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Oil, gold hit new highs

Oil futures briefly hit an all-time high of $103.95 a barrel in New York trading yesterday, topping the inflation-adjusted record of $103.76 set in April 1980. Investors, including large pension funds, are flocking to oil, gold, and other commodities as a hedge against the falling dollar and rising inflation. “When investors lose confidence in the central bank, they tend to look for hard assets,” said economist Philip Verleger. (The New York Times, free registration) Gold also hit a new peak, $992 an ounce, yesterday. (MarketWatch) And platinum hit an all-time high of $2,275 an ounce early today. (Reuters)

U.S. car sales slumped in February

U.S. auto sales fell by 10 percent in February, with domestic automakers hit harder than their foreign rivals by high gas prices and a sagging economy. Honda was the only automaker to eke out a gain in sales, at 0.7 percent. (The New York Times, free registration) Sales at General Motors fell 16 percent; at Ford, 10 percent; and at Chrysler, 17 percent. (Reuters) “We’re in a recession, at least as far as car sales are concerned,” said analyst David Healy at Burnham Securities. In one small bit of good news for Detroit, U.S. automakers managed to hold onto a 51.2 percent majority of the domestic market. (CNNMoney.com)

Piggy banks full, at least in corporate America

Americans are not very good at saving money, but American corporations are sitting atop piles of cash. In fact, most of them have enough on hand to pay off their debt outright. This amassing of cash is partly a reaction to the greater risks of a global economy, economists say, and it could be very good for the U.S. economy if companies spread it around through special dividends or capital spending. But without investor scrutiny, executives don’t always spend wisely. “There is a subtle line between having enough money to do what you have to do versus having enough money to do anything you want to do,” said University of Michigan professor Amy Dittmar. (The New York Times, free registration)

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