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BUSINESS NEWS JAN 17, 2008
Due to a technical problem on Wednesday Jan 16, we are upgrading the news management system which will be completed in coming days.

Business News Headlines to Jan 16 2008

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Jan 17 2008 News Links

Markets News Afternoon: US and European stocks slide; Dublin market rises

Annual Irish Consumer Inflation falls to 4.7% in December 2007

Euribor 3-Month Inter-Bank Rate falls to the lowest level since the onset of the Credit Crunch in August 2007

European Central Bank warns again that it may raise interest rates

Slashing Energy Waste in China - Energy efficiency would do 'the most, the quickest,' to reduce CO2 emissions - World Bank

Study links corporate performance to employee enablement - Economist Intelligence Unit

Markets News Thursday: Asia-Pacific and European stocks rise

Thursday Newspaper Review - Irish Business News and International Stories

Big drugs companies raided by European competition regulators

Thursday Newspaper Review - Irish Business News and International Stories
Principal news stories from the Irish Times, Irish Examiner, Financial Times and New York Times.

The Irish Independent reports that Glanbia will bring the curtain down on its long and expensive involvement in the meat industry when it completes the sale of its remaining meat interests to a management-led consortium.

By selling the rump of its once mighty meat business, the company is completing a process which current chief John Moloney put in train once he had identified a new strategy for the former company.

Instead of involving itself with low margin business such as pig slaughtering, the company, formerly called Avonmore Waterford Group, would focus on areas such as cheese, nutritional ingredients and consumer foods with a nutritional emphasis.

Given this strategy, it was only a matter of time before the meat business was put on the block and analysts expressed little surprise at the move.

"It's a low margin business and the sale will not have a significant impact on the group," one analyst said last night. He added that the price is likely to be in the low single digits -- well under €10m.

Even if it did make €10m, this would still be only a fraction of the huge sum written off by Glanbia during the turbulent period between 2000 and 2004.

The meat business is the leading pork slaughterer and processor in Ireland and it processed 1.2 million animals, or 48.7pc of the national supply last year.

While it produces a wide range of products, none of its output is branded.

Employing 850 people, the business operates from four facilities in Ireland, including two modern slaughtering plants at Roscrea, Co Tipperary, and Edenderry, Co Offaly.

It also operates the only pork- head boning facility in Ireland at Clara, Co Offaly, and a bacon curing and processing facility at Jamestown in Co Leitrim.

As well as slaughtering animals, the company is also one of the largest pig-farming operations in Ireland, with 4,500 sows across six farms.

In 2001, the company took a modest net exceptional charge of €5.53m. However, when worsening trading conditions prompted the sale of its UK consumer meat division a year later, the loss on the sale came to €65m, while for 2001 as a whole it wrote off €80m.

Given that it operates in a difficult, low margin business, there is likely to be little or no competition to the MBO team, which is being advised by buy-out specialists BDO.

"They know the business and are the best buyer," one analyst surmised.

The Irish Independent also reports that the pension funds of Irish private sector workers have shed €4bn of their value in the first two weeks of the year alone, it emerged last night.

The losses this year so far match the damage done to private pensions for all of 2007.

Fears of a recession in the US and the worsening international banking crisis have triggered day-after-day losses on international markets over the past two weeks.

This has meant that between 3pc and 4.5pc has been wiped off Irish managed pension funds in the past fortnight, according to Noel Collins, a senior consultant with pensions advisers Mercer. The highest losses have been suffered by those funds with the largest exposure to equities.

Disappear

The Irish Stock Market made modest gains yesterday but so far in 2008 it has dropped almost 8pc. On Tuesday, the Irish market saw €3.2bn of its value disappear. The Irish market is now down 31pc in the past 12 months.

Unlike last year, international markets have also made massive losses so far this year.

Mr Collins calculated that in the first two weeks of 2008, a total of €4bn has been wiped off the €110bn in private Irish pension funds.

"The losses have been across the board and not just in Irish equities, which was the case last year. Markets in Europe, the UK and the US have fallen between 6pc and 7pc in the past fortnight," Mr Collins said.

The Mercer consultant said the turmoil in the stock markets globally was very hard for pension trustees to defend against.

Risks

"It seems obvious, but pension fund trustees need to be aware of the risks from equities. If they have equity funds, they may need to be more diversified," he added.

Fund managers and trustees suffering losses could lessen their dependence on equities by diversifying into investment in private equity, emerging markets and infrastructure projects, along with bonds.

The huge losses being suffered by pension funds are expected to put further pressure on companies to close down final salary or defined benefit pension funds and replace them with defined contribution funds where the employees take the risk, according to Peter Griffin, of pension consultants Allied Pension Trustees.

Mr Griffin advised those contributing to pensions and trustees to ride out the current turmoil, particularly if they have more than five years left before they retire.

The Irish Times reports that Payzone chief executive John Nagle and chief financial officer John Williamson secured injunctions in the High Court in Dublin yesterday preventing the recently formed electronic payments group from dismissing them from their posts.

This followed an announcement to the stock exchange by Payzone yesterday morning stating that the two Dublin-based executives had left the company.

Chairman Bob Thian assumed "executive responsibility" at the company with "immediate effect", the statement said.

"John Nagle and John Williamson have created a strong platform for growth at Payzone but the company has now reached a stage of its development where a different set of skills is required.

"There are a number of excellent managers at Payzone and I look forward to working with them to realise the great potential of this business," Mr Thian stated.

Mr Nagle and Mr Williamson went before the High Court at 5.15pm yesterday and were granted three injunctions by Mr Justice George Birmingham.

These restrain Payzone from treating the two executives as being dismissed from their employment and as "having been removed" as directors.

A third injunction was secured restraining Payzone from announcing that the pair had been dismissed or removed as directors.

A full hearing in the High Court is due to be held this morning although legal sources indicated that this could be deferred.

A spokesman for Payzone said it had "no comment to make on the legal proceedings".

He added that the decision to remove Mr Nagle and Mr Williamson was a unanimous one taken by the board and supported by the majority of shareholders.

It is understood that Mr Nagle was informed of the decision to remove him from his position by email on Tuesday night.

Mr Nagle and Mr Williamson told the court that a board meeting held on Tuesday, at which the decision was taken to terminate their employments, was not properly convened.

Under the company's own rules, board meetings are supposed to be held in the Republic, where the company's head office is situated.

It is understood that the meeting took place in Britain.

In addition, they told the court that that their contracts state that they should receive 12 calendar months' written notice of their employments being ended, which has not happened.

The row is believed to centre around the release of a trading update to the stock market.

Payzone was formed on December 5th from the merger of Irish e-payments group Alphyra, which Mr Nagle founded, and British-based ATM operator Cardpoint, which Mr Thian, as executive chairman, led.

It listed on the Alternative Investment Market (Aim) in London.

It is understood that Cardpoint had experienced difficult trading in October and November while Alphyra's business grew.

Mr Nagle is believed to have wanted to issue a trading statement to the stock market in advance of an investor roadshow this week but the board decided against this move.

As a result, Mr Nagle is believed to have declined to participate in the roadshow.

The Irish Times also reports that the troubles of cider makers C&C spilled over from summer into the winter market, with a 30 per cent fall in sales of Magners, prompting a slide in its share price early yesterday.

The drinks group's 15 per cent fall in total revenue between September and November, and indication that sales over the Christmas period were similarly subdued, prompted a 17.5 per cent decline in its share price. But in a day of trading on the Iseq index that proved to be as volatile as C&C's own earnings performance of late, the stock recovered almost all of those losses and closed down just 1 per cent.

Despite being the same drink, with the same ingredients and same taste, C&C's Bulmers and Magners cider produced starkly different results for the group in the final few months of 2007.

Bulmers, C&C's cider brand in Ireland, posted a relatively strong year-on-year sales growth of 2 per cent. However, the 30 per cent year-on-year drop in sales of Magners, the name given to the brand in Britain, resulted in an overall 18 per cent dip in the cider division's revenues.

C&C's fears that the summer downpours would have a knock-on effect on winter sales - because of a failure to recruit new drinkers during the peak summer season - appear to have been realised.

In its trading statement, C&C also blamed a loss of market share to Scottish & Newcastle, owners of rival British brand Bulmers Original, and a "very weak" environment for pubs and bars.

C&C plans to appoint a managing director to oversee the development of Magners in Britain, which is still seen as its main market for growth potential. C&C expects to report a 10 per cent decline in revenues for its current financial year, which ends on February 29th. Its only real interest, apart from cider, is its spirits and liqueurs division, which recorded growth of 1 per cent in the third quarter.

There was heavy trading in the stock yesterday, with 5.4 million shares exchanging hands. C&C said it would shortly resume its share buyback scheme.

NCB stockbrokers said it was downgrading the stock from "buy" to "hold" until the group's strategy for stabilising its business in Britain became clearer.

But Goodbody stockbrokers food analyst Liam Igoe, retaining his "buy" recommendation, said C&C's current share price was "effectively writing off the value of the Magners brand".

The Irish Examiner reports that pessimism among Irish construction firms has reached its highest level ever, ending a dismal week for the sector.

The latest FÁS/ESRI employment and vacancies survey found the employment outlook of construction firms dropped to it lowest level last month, with the percentage of employers in the sector expecting employment levels to fall over the coming months 42 percentage points higher than that predicting an increase.

Earlier this week, the Ulster Bank construction purchasing managers index found activity in the construction sector has plunged to its lowest level on record, while the CSO said the number of people employed in the construction sector fell 5.4% on a year-on-year basis in November.

The FÁS/ESRI survey also found the number of firms expecting a fall in employment levels over the coming months is 10 percentage points higher than that predicting an increase.

The three-month moving average, which took the average figure of firms expecting a fall in employment levels in October, November and December fell to -10%, the lowest since the survey began in May 2002.

There was positive news on the vacancies front with economy-wide vacancies decreasing slightly in December by two percentage points to 14%, a fall driven by a decline in reported vacancies across the four sectors surveyed — construction, industry, retail and services.

Dr Elish Kelly of the ESRI said: “Overall the vacancy figures are holding up but going forward we are finding employers are expecting to hire less people and are becoming more pessimistic when it comes to hiring prospects but this seems to be consistent with overall forecasts for economic growth.

“With regards to the construction sector, the results from December’s survey indicate employers in this sector are the most pessimistic they have been since 2002 about future employment levels in the sector.”

The survey also found vacancies in the industry sector fell from 16% in November to 11% in December. This time last year the vacancy rate stood at 17%.

The percentage of firms reporting vacancies in the retail and services sectors declined, to 1% and 21% respectively.

Industry employment expectations fell by 9 percentage points to –22% last month.

The employment outlook of retail sector firms continued to trend downwards with employment expectations for the sector falling by one percentage point to -6%. Some of the most frequently reported difficult-to-fill vacancies were quantity surveyors, engineers and general operatives and sales staff.

The Financial Times reports that the euro slid sharply on Wednesday after investors bet comments by a European Central Bank council member meant eurozone rate cuts were more likely.

Yves Mersch, Luxembourg’s central bank governor, said the ECB should “be cautious” amid the widespread economic uncertainty and hinted that eurozone growth forecasts might soon have to be revised downwards.

Mr Mersch represents one of the eurozone’s smallest states, but he is regarded as one of the more hawkish members of the 21-strong ECB council. His comments in a Bloomberg interview suggest at least some bank members are moderating their tone as the US Federal Reserve prepares to cut interest rates.

Earlier, Axel Weber, president of the Bundesbank, also appeared to be hedging his usually hawkish stance. He acknowledged that German inflation could have eased significantly by 2009.

Eurozone inflation was confirmed at 3.1 per cent. The ECB’s target range is a rate “below but close” to 2 per cent.

Jean-Claude Trichet, ECB president, last week warned he was prepared to act “pre-emptively” to prevent wage demands fuelling long-term inflationary pressures, a hint that interest rates could even rise. In Frankfurt on Wednesday night, last night, Mr Trichet said the ECB’s position had not changed.

The euro briefly dived below $1.46. It had closed on Tuesday at $1.4850.

Global equity markets continued to suffer from fears of a US recession. The FTSE Eurofirst 300 index had its lowest close in 16 months and the FTSE 100 ended below 6,000 for the first time since August. Hong Kong suffered its worst one-day fall since September 2001, though Wall Street had recovered from an early slide by midday.

The FT also reports that Josef Ackermann, chief executive of Deutsche Bank, has called for a thorough overhaul of the operations of investment banks and regulators to combat a widespread loss of investor confidence in complex finance.

Banks needed to find ways of making complex structured products, such as mortgage securities, far more transparent, thus reducing investors’ dependency on credit ratings, Mr Ackermann said.

“Improved transparency is decisive, including disclosure of off-balance-sheet exposures, such as structured investment vehicles,” Mr Ackermann said in a private speech to the London School of Economics this week. Deutsche Bank is now circulating the speech to key clients and regulators.

Regulators had to shift from their emphasis on regulatory capital issues to a more “holistic” approach that also monitored banks’ liquidity positions.

“In the early 1930s, the SEC restored confidence in markets by providing transparency on share prices ... sound pricing infrastructure needs to be developed [for complex] new products,” said Mr Ackermann.

The comments are some of the most outspoken calls for reform made by a senior banker. But Mr Ackermann’s remarks reflect an intensifying debate behind the scenes between policymakers and bankers about how best to respond to the credit squeeze.

These discussions are likely to intensify next week when regulators, bankers and world leaders gather for the World Economic Forum in Davos, not least because central bankers and regulators are expected to issue calls for policy reform in the spring.

Some Wall Street and City bankers fear the mounting toll of losses linked to subprime-linked securities and other debt will soon prompt US politicians and regulators to clamp down on complex finance.

However, bankers such as Mr Ackermann hope this can be avoided if the industry is seen to reform itself. In another sign of this looming fight, the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association – the body that represents the global structured finance sector – on Wednesday appointed T Timothy Ryan, a senior JPMorgan banker and former US regulator, as its new chief.

Mr Ryan, a considerably more heavyweight candidate than his predecessors, is expected to lead a big banking initiative to lobby politicians and regulators in defence of the sector.

 

The New York Times reports that Ben S. Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, has told lawmakers that he can support tax cuts or spending measures to stimulate the economy, even if they increase the budget deficit, provided the measures are quick and temporary.

Mr. Bernanke is to testify before the House Budget Committee Thursday. Democratic lawmakers said he had told them that he would not comment on proposals to link a stimulus package with a permanent extension of President Bush’s tax cuts. That is expected to disappoint Republicans who favor such a link.

Faced with growing evidence that the economy is slipping into a recession, Congressional Democrats and President Bush are trying to come up with a package that would put more money in Americans’ hands within the next few months.

The Fed’s willingness to give a nod to fiscal stimulus is important. Many lawmakers will not support action without the chairman’s blessing, and the double dose of stimulus that the Fed and Congress are considering must be carefully calibrated.

If Mr. Bernanke opposed Congressional action on the ground that spending increases and tax cuts would increase the budget deficit, the Fed might restrain its own effort to stimulate the economy with lower interest rates.

Mr. Bernanke wants to keep the Fed out of political jockeying, but he is also wary of endorsing measures that could aggravate the government’s long-term fiscal problems. Unlike his predecessor, Alan Greenspan, Mr. Bernanke has generally refused to insert himself into the particulars of partisan battles over specific tax and spending proposals. Mr. Greenspan was often criticized for endorsing Mr. Bush’s tax cuts of 2001, which contributed to ballooning deficits for several years.

Democratic lawmakers who have spoken with Mr. Bernanke said he would not endorse any specific plan but supported the general idea of propping up consumer spending and investment with temporary tax or spending measures.

Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York and chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, said Mr. Bernanke was “generally supportive” of a stimulus package as long as it was well conceived. “He said that while he wasn’t going to endorse a specific plan, if an economic stimulus package was properly designed and enacted so that it enters the economy quickly, it could have a very positive effect,” Mr. Schumer said.

Mr. Bernanke acknowledged last week that economic conditions had worsened and strongly suggested that the Federal Reserve would reduce the benchmark interest rate at the meeting of its Federal Open Market Committee on Jan. 30. On Wall Street, investors are betting that the central bank will reduce overnight lending rates to 3.75 percent from 4.25 percent.

On Wednesday, the central bank released its so-called beige book, a compilation of anecdotal reports from the Fed’s 12 regional banks, and it stated that economic growth slowed noticeably in November and December.

The report said that holiday-season retail sales were “generally disappointing.” Seven of the 12 Fed districts reported a “slight increase in economic activity,” two described conditions as “mixed” and three reported slowdowns.

The Fed chairman met privately on Monday with the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi of California. In that meeting, according to Congressional officials, Mr. Bernanke neither urged Congress to enact an emergency measure nor signaled any opposition.

While declining to discuss details, Ms. Pelosi said, “I am encouraged by my conversations with the administration and the Fed, which is separate and independent, that there is a sense of urgency, that there is a need for a stimulus package and we should find our common ground as soon as possible.”

The Fed chairman was said by others to have echoed the concept if not the precise words of economists like Lawrence H. Summers, Treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton, who have called for any plan to be “timely, targeted and temporary.”

Democratic lawmakers generally favor measures aimed at low- and middle-income families, arguing they need the extra money most acutely and are most likely to spend it immediately. Though Democrats are weighing a variety of measures, a consensus appears to be building that the package should cost about $100 billion.

Among the proposals circulating among Democrats are one-time tax rebates to almost all workers; temporary increases in unemployment benefits, food stamps and Medicaid payments; and federal grants to state and local governments. Some Democrats are pushing for increased spending on public infrastructure like highways and bridges, but aides to Ms. Pelosi said that issue might be dealt with separately to avoid slowing down any stimulus package.

Administration officials and many Republican lawmakers were open to tax rebates, but many want to include temporary business tax breaks, like an investment tax credit or permanent reductions in the corporate rate.

The House Democratic and Republican leaders met Wednesday and emerged promising to work together on a stimulus plan. Congressional leaders are to meet with Mr. Bush next Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Michael O. Leavitt, the secretary of health and human services, rejected a proposal favored by many Democrats to have the federal government pay a larger share of the cost of Medicaid, the health program for low-income people that is financed jointly with the states.

He said that increasing the federal share of Medicaid could be a means of increasing federal control over health care, a change opposed by the White House.

“I don’t think that Medicare and Medicaid were intended as jobs programs,” Mr. Leavitt said. “They were intended to help those with serious economic disadvantages.”

One precedent for this proposal was the 2003 tax cut law, which provided $20 billion in “temporary fiscal relief” to states. Half of the money was to avert cuts in Medicaid programs.

Mr. Bush and his advisers have been pushing for years to make his 2001 and 2003 tax cuts permanent. Many economists argue that making the tax cuts permanent would have no immediate effect on the economy, because they are not scheduled to expire until the end of 2010. But supporters say the move could provide a short-term lift because investors would have greater certainty about tax policy in the future.

Mr. Bernanke, who was a Fed governor and then chairman of Mr. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers before becoming Fed chairman, is expected to rebuff efforts by Republicans or Democrats to draw him into that battle. Since becoming Fed chairman in February 2006, Mr. Bernanke has generally refused to comment on specific tax and spending proposals unless they had a direct bearing on the overall economy.

“If he gets peppered on these issues, my guess is that he will duck,” said Brian A. Bethune, an economist at Global Insight, an economic forecasting firm.

Mr. Bernanke is expected to warn lawmakers Thursday that the nation faces severe budget problems in the decades ahead as more than 70 million baby boomers reach retirement age.

He has long made it clear that there are times when it makes sense for the federal government to run higher deficits to head off an economic downturn.

“In the short run, fiscal policy makers may have important and legitimate reasons to depart from budget balance, sometimes even substantially,” Mr. Bernanke said in a speech in 2003, when he was a Fed governor. Those reasons, he continued, could include a national emergency or “a stimulus package to assist economic recovery.”

The NYT also reports that for decades, the theory that lowering cholesterol is always beneficial has been a core principle of cardiology. It has been accepted by doctors and used by drug makers to win quick approval for new medicines to reduce cholesterol.

But now some prominent cardiologists say the results of two recent clinical trials have raised serious questions about that theory — and the value of two widely used cholesterol-lowering medicines, Zetia and its sister drug, Vytorin. Other new cholesterol-fighting drugs, including one that Merck hopes to begin selling this year, may also require closer scrutiny, they say.

“The idea that you’re just going to lower LDL and people are going to get better, that’s too simplistic, much too simplistic,” said Dr. Eric J. Topol, a cardiologist and director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute in La Jolla, Calif. LDL, or low-density lipoprotein, is the so-called bad cholesterol, in contrast to high-density lipoprotein, or HDL.

For patients and drug companies, the stakes are enormous. Led by best sellers like Lipitor from Pfizer, cholesterol-lowering medicines, taken by tens of millions of patients daily, are the largest drug category worldwide, with annual sales of $40 billion.

Despite widespread use of the drugs, though, heart disease remains the biggest killer in the United States and other industrialized nations, and many people still have cholesterol levels far higher than doctors recommend.

As a result, drug companies are investing billions of dollars in experimental new cholesterol-lowering medicines that may eventually be used alongside the existing drugs. If the new questions result in slower approvals, it would be yet another handicap for the drug industry.

Because the link between excessive LDL cholesterol and cardiovascular disease has been so widely accepted, the Food and Drug Administration generally has not required drug companies to prove that cholesterol medicines actually reduce heart attacks before approval.

They have not had to conduct so-called outcome or events trials beforehand, which are expensive studies that involve thousands of patients and track whether episodes like heart attacks are reduced.

So far, proof that a drug lowers LDL cholesterol has generally been enough to lead to approval. Only then does the drug’s maker begin an events trial. And until the results of that trial are available, a process that can take several years, doctors and patients must accept the medicine’s benefits largely on faith.

“You’ve got a huge chasm between F.D.A. licensure and a clinical events trial,” said Dr. Allen J. Taylor, the chief of cardiology at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Nonetheless, the multistep process has worked well for several cholesterol drugs — including Lipitor and Zocor, which are in a class of drugs known as statins. In those cases, the postapproval trials confirmed that the drugs reduce heart attacks and strokes, adding to confidence about the link between cholesterol and heart disease.

Doctors generally believe that the amount by which cholesterol is lowered, not the method of lowering it, is what matters.

That continues to be the assumption of Dr. Scott M. Grundy, a professor of medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center who was the chairman of a panel in 2001 that set national guidelines for cholesterol treatment.

“LDL lowering, however it occurs, delays development of coronary atherosclerosis and reduces risk for heart attack,” Dr. Grundy said this week. In atherosclerosis, plaque builds up in the arteries, eventually leading to blood clots and other problems that cause heart attacks and strokes.

In the last 13 months, however, the failures of two important clinical trials have thrown that hypothesis into question.

First, Pfizer stopped development of its experimental cholesterol drug torcetrapib in December 2006, when a trial involving 15,000 patients showed that the medicine caused heart attacks and strokes. That trial — somewhat unusual in that it was conducted before Pfizer sought F.D.A. approval — also showed that torcetrapib lowered LDL cholesterol while raising HDL, or good cholesterol.

Torcetrapib’s failure, Dr. Taylor said, shows that lowering cholesterol alone does not prove a drug will benefit patients.

Then, on Monday, Merck and Schering-Plough announced that Vytorin, which combines Zetia with Zocor, had failed to reduce the growth of fatty arterial plaque in a trial of 720 patients. In fact, patients taking Vytorin actually had more plaque growth than those who took Zocor alone.

Despite those drawbacks, that trial, called Enhance, also showed that patients on Vytorin had lower LDL levels than those on Zocor alone. For the second time in just over a year, a clinical trial found that LDL reduction did not translate into measurable medical benefits.

The Enhance trial was not an events trial and was not intended to study whether Zetia or Vytorin were effective at reducing heart attacks. But the growth of fatty plaque is closely correlated with heart attacks and strokes.

Without data from events trials for Zetia and Vytorin, no one can be certain if the drugs help or hurt patients. But Merck and Schering did not begin an events trial for the drugs until 2006, nearly four years after the F.D.A. approved Zetia. That trial will not be completed until 2011.

Dr. Robert M. Califf, the vice chancellor for clinical research at Duke University, and a co-lead investigator on the Zetia trial still under way, said companies should have started the trials more quickly. “Outcome trials ought to start when you know you’re going to get on the market,” he said.

On Tuesday, the American Heart Association called for the Zetia outcome trial to be completed as quickly as possible.

Merck has asked the F.D.A. to approve its drug Cordaptive, which raises HDL cholesterol and lowers LDL, without waiting for the results of an events trial. Merck has begun an events trial for Cordaptive, but data will not be available until 2013.

Merck has submitted the application for Cordaptive and has said it expects an answer from the F.D.A. before July. Doctors, patients and the drug industry will be waiting to see whether regulators are still willing to accept the theory that lower cholesterol is always a good thing.

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