Today's Business Press

Meet Google’s Browser

The Wall Street Journal gives today’s launch of Google’s new Chrome Web browser A1 billing, noting that the company’s latest open-source software takes “direct aim at Microsoft Corp.’s Internet Explorer [while] ensuring that it will have a platform for its Internet services that needn’t conform to other companies’ standards.” Microsoft’s Internet Explorer still dominates the browser market, but, writes the NYT, “ Google does not have to win the browser war. Strategically, opening yet another front against Microsoft forces it to divert resources to defend franchises.” Neither the WSJ nor NYT broke this story. In a very Web 2.0 form of news release, Google sent a comic-book outline of the new browser to Google Blogoscoped, a blog that tracks the company.

Chrome may have knocked Gustav off its media pedestal, but there’s still plenty of digital ink spilled on the hurricane’s economic impact. CNN Money reports how the storm brought a halt to all
oil and 82 percent of natural-gas production in the Gulf of Mexico. Luckily the industry’s infrastructure seems to have escaped unscathed says the NYT, giving hope that full production might restart in a few days. “We dodged the bullet,” a top Houston oil exec tells the paper. How quickly crude upstream operations come back online will determine whether President Bush needs to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, says the Los Angeles Times. Even though Gustav packs little of Katrina’s punch, its economic “bite could be worse as it hits a national economy that is far weaker” than in 2005 writes CNN Money. A projected $10 billion in damage is a fraction of the $41 billion blow Katrina delivered, but on top of all the other woes, “it makes it more likely the recession scenario for the end of the year,” says David Wyss, chief economist for Standard & Poor’s. Sales of cholesterol-busting medicines Zetia and Vytorin reached $5.2 billion last year, but the New York Times asks whether these drugs could cause cancer. All Big Pharma eyes today will be on the New England Journal of Medicine as it weighs in on the debate surrounding these two money-spinners, which were able to get Food and Drug Administration approval based on just a “handful of clinical trials covering a total of 3,900 patients,” writes the NYT. It adds: “There is still no proof that the drugs help patients live longer or avoid heart attacks. This year Vytorin has failed two clinical trials meant to show its benefits.” Then there are the cancer worries stemming from three recent clinical trials in which participants had a “40 percent higher chance of dying from cancer if they took Vytorin instead of a sugar pill or another medicine.” Manufacturers Merck and Schering-Plough rigorously refute any link with cancer.

Troubled Franco-American telecom
Alcatel-Lucent has a new team at the top, the Financial Times and WSJ report. After a monthlong global search, the company has appointed Ben Verwaayen, the former boss of BT Group PLC, and Philippe Camus, a former aerospace executive, as chief executive and non-executive chairman. The move to install two high profile Europeans “suggests Alcatel-Lucent’s board is determined to put an end to the trans-Atlantic tensions that have hurt the company since its creation two years ago from the merger of Alcatel SA of France and Lucent Technologies Inc. of the U.S.,” writes the WSJ. The two new execs are being sold as saviors to the media but both men will have to draw on their long pedigree in technology and telecoms in order to reverse Alcatel’s six consecutive quarters of losses, notes the FT.

Finally, some breaking news out of Asia. The FT confirms that
Korea Development Bank and Lehman Brothers are in talks whereby KDB could take as much as a 50 percent stake in the beleaguered U.S. brokerage house. Min Euoo-sung, KDB’s new chairman and a former head of Lehman in Korea, has let it be known that he believes the U.S. subprime crisis provided a great opportunity for KDB to grow.