Business Highlights


Breakthrough cholesterol drugs fizzle amid price pushback

WASHINGTON (AP) — When a powerful pair of cholesterol-lowering drugs first hit the market last summer, initial excitement in the medical community quickly turned to panic.

The new drugs promised to reduce artery-clogging cholesterol by nearly twice as much as older ones. But they came at an eye-popping price: more than $14,000 per year, compared with roughly $150 for the standard drugs.

Some experts predicted a doomsday scenario in which the two injectable drugs, Repatha and Praluent, would add a staggering $100 billion to the U.S. drug bill as doctors signed up millions of patients with elevated cholesterol. But then something unexpected happened: not much.

Caught between skeptical doctors and cost-conscious insurers, the drugs have barely sold. Sanofi reported a meagre $10 million from Praluent in the last quarter, which it co-markets with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. Amgen Inc. declined to break out Repatha sales.


Source: VW, gov’t ink deal to pay owners of cheating diesels

DETROIT (AP) — Volkswagen, the U.S. government and private lawyers have reached a deal for the automaker to spend just over $1 billion to compensate owners of about 600,000 diesel-powered cars that cheat on emissions tests, according to a person briefed on the matter.

The final details are still being worked out, according to the person, who asked not to be identified because the deal hasn’t been made public. The agreement is likely to be announced Thursday morning during a federal court hearing in San Francisco.


Hamilton stays on $10 bill; Tubman goes on $20

WASHINGTON (AP) — Harriet Tubman, an African-American abolitionist who was born a slave, will stand with George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Franklin as among the iconic faces of U.S. currency.

The $20 bill will be redesigned with Tubman’s portrait on the front, marking two historic milestones, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew announced Wednesday. She will be the first African American on U.S. paper money and the first woman depicted in 100 years.

The leader of the Underground Railroad will replace the portrait of Andrew Jackson, the nation’s seventh president and a slave owner, who will be pushed to the back of the bill.


Missing ingredient for millennials: Down payment savings

WASHINGTON (AP) — Short of savings and burdened by debt, America’s millennials are struggling to afford their first homes in the face of sharply higher prices in many cities.

Nationally, 37 per cent of millennial renters have saved nothing at all for a down payment, according to a survey of renters that was released Wednesday by Apartment List. At the same time, 79 per cent of millennial renters say they aspire to own a home, illustrating a troublesome gap between expectations and financial realities.


Japan’s Mitsubishi Motors finds falsified fuel mileage tests

TOKYO (AP) — Mitsubishi Motors Corp., the Japanese automaker tarnished by a massive recall coverup 15 years ago, owned up to another scandal Wednesday, saying employees had intentionally falsified fuel mileage data for several vehicle models.

The inaccurate tests by the Tokyo-based automaker involved 157,000 of its own-brand eK wagon and eK Space light passenger cars, and 468,000 Dayz and Dayz Roox vehicles produced for Nissan Motor Co.

The models are all so-called “minicars” with tiny engines whose main attraction is generally great mileage. They were produced from March 2013.


American Express’ earnings fall, but still beat estimates

NEW YORK (AP) — American Express’s first-quarter profits declined 8 per cent from a year earlier, as the company continues to spend heavily to retain customers being lured away by aggressive competitors.

However the company’s results beat analysts’ expectations and it saw both more card spending and more account openings in the quarter, which helped push AmEx’s shares higher in post-market trading.

The credit card company said Wednesday it earned a profit of $1.39 billion, or $1.45 a share, in the first quarter, after payments to preferred shareholders.


Coke’s namesake sodas see declines in key markets

NEW YORK (AP) — Coca-Cola saw the popularity of its namesake sodas decline in key markets around the world during the first quarter, reflecting a mix of changing tastes, challenging economic conditions and a shifting business strategy.

The world’s biggest beverage maker said Wednesday that sales volume for sodas like Diet Coke and Cherry Coke that bear its name collectively declined in North America, Europe and the unit including the Middle East and Africa.

Total sales volume rose 2 per cent, helped by performance of other sodas like Fanta and strength in non-carbonated drinks like bottled water and sports drinks.


Yum beats 1Q profit forecasts

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Yum Brands said Wednesday that its profit rose 8 per cent in the first quarter as the parent company of KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell saw sales improve in the embattled China unit it plans to spin off.

Sales rose 6 per cent for established stores, a key industry metric, in China. The China unit has been hit by food scares and marketing missteps in recent years. In October, the company announced plans to spin off the business into a separate publicly traded company by the end of 2016.


Board standoff at United ends in deal with big investors

DALLAS (AP) — United Airlines will make changes to its board, putting behind it — at least for now — a contentious fight with two big shareholders.

The airline announced Wednesday that it will name two new directors picked by PAR Capital Management and Altimeter Capital Management, which together own about 7 per cent United’s shares.

A third new board member, mutually agreed on by both sides, will be added within six months.

Robert Milton, a former Air Canada CEO, will become chairman of the nation’s No. 3 airline. Current Chairman Henry Meyer and two other directors will step down at the company’s annual meeting.


EU expands battle with Google with Android antitrust probe

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union is broadening its battle with Google, alleging that the technology giant rigs the global market for mobile apps by making its Android operating system give preferential treatment to its own products.

The Android operating system is designed to feature Google’s search engine, maps, Gmail, YouTube video service and other products that give the company more opportunities to sell digital ads. Device makers don’t have to use Android as Google sets it up, but European regulators are looking into complaints that the company penalizes those that deviate from Google’s favoured design.


The Dow Jones industrial average gained 42.67 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 18,096.27. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 1.60 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 2,102.40. The Nasdaq composite index added 7.80 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 4,948.13.

U.S. crude rose $1.55, or 3.8 per cent, to close at $42.63 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the international benchmark, climbed $1.77, or 4 per cent, at $45.80 a barrel in London. Heating oil jumped 5.5 per cent after adding 7 cents to close at $1.33 a gallon. Wholesale gasoline rose about 3 cents, or 1.8 per cent, to close at $1.51 a gallon. Natural gas fell 2 cents to close at $2.069 per 1,000 cubic feet.