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BUSINESS IN BRIEF

Shire to hire 50 at former Transkaryotic location

Shire Pharmaceuticals Group said it plans to hire 50 employees at the former headquarters of Transkaryotic Therapies in Cambridge, which it purchased in July. The expansion is intended to prepare the company for the anticipated launch next year of a drug to treat the rare genetic disease Hunter syndrome. David Pendergast, general manager of the Cambridge operation, said fewer than 20 people were laid off when Shire integrated support functions with the former TKT. The Cambridge division has about 400 employees, roughly the same as when TKT accepted a $1.6 billion takeover offer from Shire in April. Some of the new jobs were posted in the spring, before the acquisition was completed, but haven't yet been filled. ''The message here is a continued commitment to genetic diseases," Pendergast said. (Jeffrey Krasner)

THE NATION
Study: Drug-coated stents may not be cost-effective

Johnson & Johnson and Boston Scientific Corp.'s drug-coated stents used in artery-clearing procedures aren't cost-effective for all patients, and their use should be restricted to those at highest risk for heart attack, according to a Swiss study. In a study of 826 patients undergoing angioplasty to clear blocked arteries, researchers from the University of Basel, Switzerland, said the higher cost of drug-coated stents was not compensated for by lower follow-up costs. Though patients who got the drug-coated devices had fewer heart attacks and deaths than those who received the plain device, the added cost of avoiding one major complication using the drug-coated device was $22,815, the researchers said. (Bloomberg)

Carmaker to offer rebate to clear out '05 vehicles
Ford Motor Co. said it will offer an additional cash rebate of $1,000 on most 2005 models to clear out inventories, but ended its employee-pricing discounts on 2006 model-year vehicles. Under the program called Ford Family Plan, the automaker offered the discounts on most 2005 vehicles and some 2006 model-year pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles. Ford said it is extending the program through Oct. 3 for its 2005 model-year vehicles only. The cash rebate of $1,000 is in addition to the employee-pricing discounts and is offered only if the customer finances the vehicle through Ford Credit. (Reuters)

Oaktree raising $1.7b for distressed-debt fund
Oaktree Capital Management LLC, a Los Angeles-based firm that buys the debt of struggling companies, plans to raise a $1.7 billion fund to prepare for what the firm expects will be a wave of defaults in coming years following record issuance of high-yield bonds. Oaktree principal Richard Masson cited borrowings by companies taken private in leveraged buyouts and hedge funds buying debt securities using credit. Oaktree expects to secure final commitments for OCM Opportunities Fund VI at the end of this month, Masson said. Washington state made a preliminary pledge of $100 million. (Bloomberg)

N.Y. Times to publish its first comic strip
The New York Times, the third-largest US newspaper by circulation, will publish its first comic strip as part of a ''Funny Pages" section of its Sunday magazine to attract younger readers. The 10-page addition starts Sept. 18 and will feature a humor column and serialized fiction such as detective stories, parent The New York Times Co. said. It will also mark the first time the paper has published fiction on a regular basis. (Bloomberg)

US appeals WTO report on lumber dispute
The United States appealed a World Trade Organization panel report that found Washington failed to comply with the global commerce body's rulings in a long-running lumber dispute with Canada, trade officials said. The appellate panel will rule within three months and if it upholds the assessment that Washington failed to comply with WTO rules, the door will be open for Canada to introduce penalties. Ottawa is seeking $168.2 million in retaliatory duties. The dispute centers on Canadian claims that the United States disregarded decisions made by the WTO last year, when US import duties on Canadian lumber were judged to be too high. Washington claims it has adopted the WTO's recommendations. (Bloomberg)

THE WORLD
Spanish electric company rejects takeover attempt

The board of directors of Spain's leading electricity company, Endesa, rejected a takeover bid by Gas Natural -- the second attempt in two years by the country's biggest natural-gas distributor to create a dominant energy company. ''The financial terms of the offer are manifestly insufficient and do not reflect in any way the real value of the company," Endesa said. A statement on Gas Natural's website said the offer implies a total value of $28.1 billion for Endesa, or $26.50 per share. (AP)

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