Utilities: Sandy spurs calls to bury power lines

Superstorm Sandy’s record blackouts laid bare the U.S. electrical grid’s vulnerability to wind and floods and renewed calls for utilities to invest billions to bury power lines. Sandy cut power to more than 8.5 million homes and businesses across 21 states. Some U.S. utilities have balked at moving more infrastructure underground, arguing it would cost about $2.1 million per mile and mean higher utility bills for consumers. Consolidated Edison, owner of New York City’s utility, says underground power systems are not fail-safe. Exelon’s Baltimore Gas and Electric, however, has already moved more than 60 percent of its system below ground and is stepping up tree-trimming to prevent storm devastation.

Pharma: Combating cholesterol via the liver

In a race to be first on the market with a new class of medicines, Amgen, Sanofi, and Pfizer have developed experimental heart drugs that studies showed lowered cholesterol levels in patients taking statins such as Pfizer’s Lipitor. The drugs target the cholesterol-regulating gene PCSK9 in the liver to reduce LDL, the “bad” cholesterol, by as much as 73 percent in patients taking statins. Cholesterol therapies are already a $39 billion market, and new approaches that target PCSK9 could top $10 billion in sales, according to RBC Capital Markets.

Amazon: Challenging Netflix started a monthly subscription pricing option for Amazon Prime, a service which combines expedited shipping and access to streaming video. The move is designed to entice holiday shoppers and step up competition with Netflix. Prime subscriptions, which had cost $79 a year, can now be bought for $7.99 a month—the same fee Netflix charges monthly subscribers to its streaming video service. Although Netflix has more movies and TV shows available, the potential savings on Amazon shipping are substantial.

Suzuki Motor: Backing out of the U.S.

Suzuki Motor is exiting the U.S. car market after almost three decades of failing to win over American consumers. The Japanese automaker will stop selling new cars in the country, though it will continue offering motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, and boat motors. Suzuki, which put its U.S. auto subsidiary into bankruptcy, will focus on defending its lead in India, where the company faces competition from Hyundai Motor. Saab Automotive and Isuzu Motors have also left the U.S. market after failing to win profits.

Apple: Looking to show Intel the door

Apple is exploring ways to replace Intel’s processors in its Mac personal computers with a version of the in-house chip technology it uses in the iPhone and iPad, according to people familiar with the company’s research. Apple engineers have grown confident that its mobile-device chip design will one day power its desktops and laptops. Apple began using Intel chips for Macs in 2005, but in the past few years has acquired chip companies and added engineers. Intel referred questions to Apple, which declined to comment.

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