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Tech wrap: Google Docs scam; Tesla losses up (+ video analysis); Pfizer, Merck beat Street; Peugeot self-driving cars

Bulldog Bulletin

May, 4 2017, 6:21 AM

In toay's Bulldog wrapup of technology and life science news:

The details:

Google said it shut down an email spam campaign that impersonated its online file service, Google Docs.

According to online reports — in particular, a detailed user thread on Reddit — clicking on an emailed share link, purportedly from a known source, was taking users to a site that asked permission for a fake app calling itself "Google Docs" to access their accounts. If they agreed, the app would then send additional copies of the original email to the users' contacts.

Earlier reports suggested the attack was a phishing scam potentially aimed at harvesting personal information and maybe even Google login credentials. But in a statement late Wednesday, Google said that while the campaign accessed and used contact information, no other data was apparently exposed.

Google said it was able to stop the campaign in about an hour. It has disabled offending accounts, removed fake pages and updated its Safe Browsing feature, which issues warnings when users visit dangerous sites.

Users don't have to take additional action, although Google encouraged those who want to be extra safe to run its security check feature.

One telltale sign for identifying the spam email: It appears to be directed to the address hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh@mailinator.com, and is only blind copied to the recipient.

Electric car maker Tesla's first-quarter loss widened 17 percent to $330 million as it ramped up spending ahead of the launch of its Model 3 sedan and its growing solar energy business.

[VIDEO: Watch Fox Business News analysis of earnings report at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBVQkxDJ8pM ]

The loss equaled $2.04 per share, compared to a loss of $2.13 a year ago. Excluding one-time items, Tesla reported a loss of $1.33 per share, which was bigger than Wall Street expected. Analysts polled by FactSet forecast a loss of $1.23 per share.

Revenue more than doubled to $2.7 billion from $1.15 billion as Tesla delivered more vehicles in the quarter and saw big increases in its energy generation and storage business after its acquisition of solar panel maker SolarCity Corp. late last year.

Palo Alto, California-based Tesla said it remains on track to start production of the Model 3 in July. It's also working on several other vehicles, which helps explain its 77 percent increase in research and development spending in the first quarter.

CEO Elon Musk said the company plans to show a prototype semi-truck in September that is partially made from Model 3 parts. It is also planning a Model Y small SUV in late 2019 or 2020.

"I'm absolutely confident that electric vehicles will occupy every segment, without exception," Musk said.

Pfizer beat Wall Street expectations for first-quarter profit thanks to reduced spending on operations and legal costs, plus strong sales of key new drugs and longtime blockbuster pain treatment Lyrica.

But revenue at the top U.S. drugmaker dipped 1 percent as competition intensified from rival brands and generic copycats. Pfizer is near the end of a years-long stretch in which generic competition cut into revenue from its one-time blockbuster drugs, including cholesterol, heart and pain drugs. Near-copies of Enbrel, an injected immune disorder drug it sells overseas, cut sales 18 percent to $588 million in the quarter, for example.

This year, drugs with sales of about $2.5 billion face generic competition, including Viagra, which gets its first U.S. generic competition late this year.

Pfizer, which has boosted sales and its pipeline of future drugs through acquisitions in the past, completed two purchases and an asset sale since January of 2016.

Its $14 billion buyout of cancer drug developer Medivation last September gave it prostate cancer drug Xtandi, which had sales of $131 million in the quarter. That helped boost Pfizer's oncology sales 36 percent, to $1.35 billion. The company told analysts more cancer drugs are in testing and it expects steady approvals over several years.

Strict cost controls, along with surging sales of its two newest medicines and a surprisingly strong performance from its entire vaccine portfolio pushed Merck & Co. beyond most expectations for the first quarter and the company boosted its outlook for the year.

The company has begun a new cycle in which sales of its latest drugs grow as revenue fades for older drugs facing new generic competition, particularly its blockbuster cholesterol pills Zetia and Vytorin.

Other Merck drugs are facing more brand-name competition. Meanwhile Merck's crucial diabetes franchise, already under pressure from insurers for bigger discounts, was hurt by a shift in the timing of orders by large U.S. purchasers. Combined sales of its Januvia and Janumet diabetes treatments dipped 5 percent, to $1.34 billion.

Merck's new drugs are picking up the slack, however.

Sales of Zepatier, the hepatitis C drug launched a year ago, rocketed to $378 million, a pace that will soon make it a blockbuster with annual sales topping $1 billion.

Revenue from the cancer medicine Keytruda, one of the top new immuno-oncology drugs that harness the immune system to fight cancer, more than doubled to $584 million.

It's approved for treating melanoma, head and neck cancer, and lung cancer, a fiercely competitive category in which it's the market leader. Keytruda also has pending approvals for bladder cancer, for a rare cancer caused by DNA repair defects and for treating lung cancer in combination with chemotherapy. The latter use could be approved by the middle of next week. Meanwhile, Merck is running scores of other patient tests of Keytruda for still more cancer types.

Merck on Tuesday reported net income of $1.55 billion, or 56 cents per share, up from $1.13 billion, or 40 cents per share, a year earlier.

Earnings, adjusted for one-time gains and costs, were 88 cents per share, a nickel above what analysts expected.

Self-driving software company nuTonomy is teaming up with French automaker Groupe PSA.

Boston-based nuTonomy says it plans to install its software and specialized sensors into two Peugeot 3008 SUVs this summer. It will begin testing them on public roads in Singapore in September.

The companies plan to expand that test fleet to about a dozen vehicles by the beginning of 2018. Eventually, nuTonomy and Groupe PSA say they could expand testing to other cities worldwide.

NuTonomy has been testing self-driving taxis in Singapore since last August. The Peugeot SUVs won't be part of that taxi fleet.

Groupe PSA is the parent company of the Peugeot, Citroen and DS brands.

It is the fifth automaker nuTonomy has partnered with. Renault, Mitsubishi, Lincoln and Land Rover are also testing the company's software.





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