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* With the patents of several important drugs about to expire, even the giant German chemicals manufacturer, Hoechst, is trying to enter the North American generic drugs market by bidding for 51 per cent of the Copley group of USA. Hoechst says the share of generic drugs in the US prescription drugs market will grow by 14 per cent a year by the end of the century. Multinationals such as Hoechst generally prefer to push brand products, but not when there is money in generics.
* The Punto, to be launched by automobile-maker Fiat in early November, marks the first time a mass-market car will offer a manufacturer-built, six-speed gearbox. Nicola Malara, head of gearbox development at Fiat, says, "The six-speed box, if used properly, will lower fuel consumption as compared with the five-speed version."
* The environmental liabilities buyers may inherit are another factor discouraging companies from investing in state-owned enterprises in eastern Europe. A survey conducted by the World Bank and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found more than half the companies that evaluated sites in the region rejected them at least partly on environmental grounds.
* Banks must bear some financial responsibility in cases where they lent money to companies that pollute the environment, says UK environment minister Tim Yeo. Yeo does not believe the responsibility should fall solely on the polluting company or on the authorities, if the firm cannot meet the clean-up costs.
* The Nordic forest industry had been ravaged by overcapacity and burdened by world recession. Nevertheless, there was a strong feeling earlier this year that the pulp and paper market would soon show an upturn. This has, however, not materialised. Pulp prices have dropped since May and languish at just under $400 a tonne.