Archive for August, 2008

Amgen to discontinue discounts on anemia drug: report (Reuters)

Thursday, August 28th, 2008 | Finance News

(Reuters) -
Amgen Inc (AMGN.O) is halting some pricing
practices that critics say were contributing to overuse of its
flagship anemia drug Aranesp at a time of mounting concerns
about the product's safety, the New York Times said.

Amgen confirmed late on Wednesday that it would no longer
offer rebates to oncology clinics for their use of Aranesp,
although it said it would offer larger discounts at the time of
purchase.

Critics have said that by providing hundreds of millions of
dollars in discounts and rebates each year to cancer clinics,
Amgen provided an incentive for doctors to use more of the
drug.

Amgen has denied that its pricing policies have caused
overuse of Aranesp.

"Nevertheless, we believe these contracting changes, along
with other modifications, help to clear up those possible
misperceptions," the New York Times quoted a company statement
as saying.

No one at Amgen was available for immediate comments.

(Reporting by Sweta Singh in Bangalore; Editing by Greg
Mahlich)

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Agricole, Natixis earnings plunge on market turmoil (Reuters)

Thursday, August 28th, 2008 | Finance News

PARIS (Reuters) -
French banks showed the scars of the
financial crisis on Thursday, with heavy asset writedowns
stripping Credit Agricole (CAGR.PA) of all but a sliver of
profit and plunging Natixis (CNAT.PA) to a billion euro loss.

Agricole, France's biggest retail bank, revealed a 94
percent fall in second-quarter profit, hit by another loss at
its Calyon investment bank, while second-tier Natixis sank to a
loss of 1.02 billion euros ($1.51 billion) from a profit of
1.01 billion a year ago, after 1.5 billion euros of writedowns.

"This is the most significant, most violent and most
long-lasting of all the financial crises we've had since the
war," Natixis Chief Executive Dominique Ferrero told French
business radio station BFM.

Earlier this month, France's other two big banks also
reported tumbling second-quarter figures, with Societe
Generale
's (SOGN.PA) net profit down 63 percent and BNP Paribas
(BNPP.PA) showing a 34 percent fall.

Agricole's net profit shrank to just 76 million euros from
1.29 billion euros a year earlier. Gross operating profit also
dropped 94 percent from last year to 102 million euros.

A Reuters poll of 18 analysts had given a wide range of
earnings forecasts for Agricole, from a net loss of 597 million
euros to a profit of 970 million.

The bank's performance was hit by around 1.1 billion euros
of writedowns related to the credit crisis and monoline
insurers, which Agricole said had a negative impact of 693
million euros on Calyon's earnings.

Calyon made a second-quarter net loss of 855 million euros.
The Reuters poll gave an average estimate for a Calyon loss of
604 million euros, with estimates on writedowns ranging from
600 million to 2.36 billion euros.

Iris Finance fund manager Michael Sellam, whose portfolio
includes both Agricole and Natixis shares, said one positive
item in Agricole's results was the fact that the writedowns
were not as bad as some had feared.

"People are saying that we're not far from the end of the
tunnel
for Agricole," said Sellam.

NATIXIS RIGHTS ISSUE

Agricole shares reversed earlier losses to rise 4.4 percent
in mid-morning trade, while Natixis stock was down 7.7 percent.
Agricole shares have fallen around 35 percent since the start
of the year, while Natixis stock has plunged around 60 percent.

Agricole, which recently ousted Marc Litzler as Calyon
chief executive, aims to cut costs and trim the division, which
has been making losses for several quarters.

Agricole completed a 5.9 billion euro rights issue in July
to shore up its finances and has also pledged 5 billion euros'
worth of asset sales. The bank has said it will not make any
major acquisitions in the near future.

Natixis is also in the process of putting together a 3.7
billion euro rights issue designed to strengthen its finances.

The bank is expected to announce details within days.

A source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Wednesday
that Natixis was expected to set a discount of between 35 and
40 percent for the rights issue, while analysts in a Reuters
poll forecast a price range of 3.35-5.50 euros.

Natixis holds a shareholder meeting on Friday to vote on
the terms of its capital increase, which should be a formality,
as French mutual banks Caisse d'Epargne and Banque Populaire
have committed to the issue and together own about 70 percent.

But the two controlling shareholders still want other
shareholders on board to avoid shrinking the public free float.

Market watchers also said Natixis might need a deep
discount to ensure the success of the operation after British
banks Bradford & Bingley (BB.L) and HBOS (HBOS.L) recently
struggled to sell their rights issues to investors.

(Editing by Will Waterman)

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Audit shows China’s government mismanaged $6.7 billion (Reuters)

Thursday, August 28th, 2008 | Finance News

BEIJING (Reuters) -
Chinese central government departments
misused or mismanaged more than 46 billion yuan ($6.73 billion)
last year, including using disaster relief money to build
government offices and diverting funds to speculate in stocks,
the National Audit Office said on Thursday.

An audit of 53 central government departments and their
subsidiary units found the misuse or embezzlement of 4.52
billion yuan in 2007, down from 7 billion yuan the year before,
the audit office said in a statement on its website.

In government spending, the auditor found "managerial
irregularities" in the use of another 41.7 billion yuan,
including illegal loans and the misappropriation of billions of
yuan from public housing funds.

It said 192 people had been prosecuted or handed
administrative punishments and another 14 detained.

Offences were committed across a raft of departments,
including the education and commerce ministries, the National
Bureau of Statistics
and the State Administration of Taxation.

China has warned corruption is so endemic as to threaten
the ruling Communist Party's grip on power, but Beijing permits
little independent oversight of government spending.

In June, the country's auditing watchdog found that 11 city
governments had kept more than 186 billion yuan, or more than
70 percent of revenues generated from land sales, off their
books to spend freely without supervision.

China Development Bank, a state lender with a roughly 3
percent stake in Barclays, was found to have illegally granted
9.1 billion yuan in loans. The audit office said the bank was
also liable for 24.57 billion yuan in misused loans, of which
5.8 billion yuan had been invested in stocks and property.

The auditor said the Agricultural Bank of China, the last
of China's "big four" banks awaiting a government bailout, had
24.3 billion yuan in irregular operations.

It added that China Everbright Bank, the People's Insurance
Co (Group) of China and the China Reinsurance Group Corp had
misused 16.79 billion yuan.

The audit also found that China's four state-owned asset
management firms
-- Huarong, Cinda, Great Wall and Orient --
could face difficulties because they had not earned enough from
selling non-performing assets to pay the interest on their
debt.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom and Zhou Xin; Editing by Ken
Wills)

($1 = 6.837 yuan)

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