The Buzz On Business

MEAT, MILK FROM CLONED ANIMALS SAFE, FDA SAYS:Meat and milk from cloned animals are as safe as that from their counterparts bred the old-fashioned way, the Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday — but sales still won’t begin right away. The decision removes the last big U.S. regulatory hurdle to marketing products from cloned livestock, and puts the FDA in concert with recent safety assessments from European food regulators and several other nations. “Meat and milk from cattle, swine and goat clones are as safe as food we eat every day,” said Dr. Stephen Sundloff, FDA’s food safety chief. But the government has asked animal cloning companies to continue a voluntary moratorium on sales for a little longer — not for safety reasons, but marketing ones. USDA Undersecretary Bruce Knight called it a transition period for “allowing the marketplace to adjust.” He wouldn’t say how long the moratorium should continue. “This is about market acceptance,” Knight added, who said he would be calling a meeting of industry leaders to determine next steps. Regardless, it still will be years before many foods from cloned animals reach store shelves, for economic reasons: At $10,000 to $20,000 per animal, they’re a lot more expensive than ordinary cows, meaning producers likely will use clones’ offspring for meat, not the clone itself. And several large companies — including dairy giant Dean Foods Co. and Hormel Foods Corp. — have said they have no plans to sell milk or meat from cloned animals because of consumer anxiety about the technology.

But FDA won’t require food makers to label if their products came from cloned animals, although companies could do so voluntarily if they knew the source.

PROFIT UP, SHARES DOWN FOR INTEL:Intel Corp.’s profit leaped 51 percent as sales of microprocessors accelerated in the fourth quarter, but its shares plummeted on signs that the world’s largest semiconductor maker is feeling the pinch of an ailing U.S. economy. The Santa Clara-based company’s results, released after the market closed Tuesday, narrowly missed Wall Street’s profit and sales expectations. The news jolted investors who thought the technology bellwether was shielded from the housing and lending morass that has crimped consumers’ discretionary spending, analysts said. Intel shares plunged more than 14 percent, falling $3.23 to $19.46 in after-hours trading Tuesday after the results were released. During the regular session, they had lost 39 cents, or 1.7 percent, to close at $22.69. Intel is the world’s No. 1 maker of the microprocessors, and is considered a valuable gauge of the industry’s health.

24% WORK FORCE CUT FOR INDYMAC BANCORP: Mortgage lender IndyMac Bancorp Inc. said Tuesday that it will slash its work force by 24 percent, laying off 2,403 employees in a bid to cut costs as it tries to weather the worsening housing slump and sagging demand for home loans. The job cuts include a significant reduction in temporary vendor staffs, mainly in India, the Pasadena-based company said. These layoffs follow a reduction of about 1,600 workers last year through voluntary resignation. The firm ended 2007 with a work force of 9,938. It said the job cuts were necessary because of a lack of demand for home loans on the secondary market and tighter access to capital due to the credit crunch that followed the collapse of the subprime mortgage market in August.

MGM MIRAGE CONDOS FLYING OUT THE DOOR: Casino operator MGM Mirage Inc. said Tuesday that it sold 50 percent of its condo units for a total of $1.63 billion at its CityCenter casino complex in Las Vegas, a faster pace than expected ahead of the property’s planned opening in late 2009. Half of the 2,647 condominium units were sold by mid-January, 11 months after sales began, with two years left to sell the rest. The company expects to sell $2.9 billion worth of condo units, offsetting the $7.8 billion cost of the 50-50 joint venture project with Dubai’s government investment fund, Dubai World. The pace of sales and the price, at an average $1,270 per square foot, confirmed high-end buyers are ignoring a larger decline in the housing market, said CityCenter executive vice president Tony Dennis.

Condo prices ranged from $500,000 to $12 million under the brands Mandarin Oriental, Veer, Vdara and the Harmon. MGM Mirage shares fell $3.17, or 4.6 percent, to $66.47 Tuesday amid a broad market decline.


Figuratively Speaking

$1,623: Estimated annual economic burden of smoking in excess medical expenses per smoking employee, according to a report from the National Business Group on Health

$1,760: Estimated additional cost in health-related productivity losses per smoking employee

75: Percentage of survey respondents who said they believe providing employees with smoking cessation benefits can help improve employee health