Tuesday morning headlines

Amgen troubles: The WSJ tops its front page with a large takeout on the biotech company's growing problems - mostly related to safety questions involving two of its biggest drugs that treat anemia. Analysts say that sales of Epogen and Aranesp fell faster than expected in the first two months of the year. A new Amgen study on whether Aranesp causes tumors to grow faster will be out soon - and company officials just hope that the results simply show a neutral effect. From the WSJ:

Amgen has arrived as a big pharmaceutical company -- and now confronts some of the same problems as Pfizer Inc. or Merck & Co. Among them: heavy reliance on a few blockbusters, an uncertain pipeline of new drugs despite heavy research spending, questions about safety and marketing and, recently, the prospect of competition from generics makers. That adds up to a crunch for [Amgen CEO Kevin] Sharer, a 59-year-old former lieutenant commander on Navy nuclear submarines. The chief executive, who collected a $24 million compensation package last year, acknowledges financial "head winds" but says, "In a $15 billion company, it's something we can handle."

Gas prices stabilize: L.A.-area prices only went up a penny for the week ended April 9, according to the government's latest survey. But that leaves the average price of regular at $3.23 a gallon (and considerably higher in many parts of town). Wholesale prices have been trending downward for the past couple of weeks, which should start to be noticed at the pumps. Gas has been over the $3 a gallon mark in many parts of the West.

Oil profits to recede: Occidental CEO Ray Irani scored his own windfall profits - $416 million in compensation last year - just as oil companies are expecting a sharp drop in profits. And that's even if oil prices keep going up. Turns out that oil-producing nations are demanding a bigger slice of the pie - and countries like Algeria and Venezuela are actually altering existing contracts. From the WSJ:

In the past, oil companies typically generated profits by taking on the risk and expense of finding new underground sources of oil or natural gas. In return, they got an ownership stake in new fields and the potential for a windfall if prices soared. Today, oil-producing nations can extract better deals because they have the upper hand. Three-quarters of global oil reserves are under the control of increasingly capable state-owned oil companies, and the West's investor-owned oil companies -- like Chevron Corp. and ConocoPhillips -- typically have to accept much less generous terms to gain access to those reserves.

MGM lands Salma Hayek: The sultry Latin star has formed a partnership with MGM to develop mainstream films that either draw on Latin themes or feature Latin talent. It's another example of the studio's efforts to give creative types like Hayek and Tom Cruise control over content. MGM will handle the marketing and distribution. Hayek's new label will be called Ventanazul.

CAA loses Lee Gabler: The LAT is reporting that the co-chairman and partner at Creative Artists Agency is leaving the firm. Gabler, who was critical of the agency's growing size and large expenditures, has been a huge force in TV over the years, selling "American Idol" to Fox and orchestrating David Letterman's move from NBC to CBS. Announcement could come today.

OC executives indicted: The former CEO and CFO of Endocare Inc., an Irvine-based medical products company, were charged with wire fraud, securities fraud, filing false statements with the SEC and lying to Endocare's accountants. The fraud involved trying to pump up the company's revenue. The two men, Paul W. Mikus and John V. Cracchiolo, could face a maximum of 430 years in prison (very unlikely but scary nonetheless) and $21.75 million in fines. LAT

Unions talk boycott: The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor (that's 300-plus local unions) voted to boycott the stores and help out grocery workers if there's a strike. The help would involve organizing picket lines, demonstrations and food drives for United Food and Commercial Workers. The two sides are expected back at the negotiating table next Monday, but the strike talk seems to be heating up. Daily News

Lacter on radio: This morning's business chat with KPCC's Steve Julian covers the big pay day for Occidental Petroleum's Ray Irani, a tight renters market in L.A. and more cruise ships coming into the Port of Los Angeles (catch the "Love Boat" theme in the background).

More by Mark Lacter:
American-US Air settlement with DOJ includes small tweak at LAX
Socal housing market going nowhere fast
Amazon keeps pushing for faster L.A. delivery
Another rugged quarter for Tribune Co. papers
How does Stanford compete with the big boys?
Those awful infographics that promise to explain and only distort
Best to low-ball today's employment report
Further fallout from airport shootings
Crazy opening for Twitter*
Should Twitter be valued at $18 billion?
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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
The multi-talented Mark Lacter
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