Fortune’s list of the Fastest Growing Companies is out this morning. Based on three-year growth rates, it provides a fascinating snapshot of dynamism in the economy. Last year, the energy sector dominated, with 25 of the top 100 companies involved in producing, moving, refining or servicing oil and gas. The shale boom’s bust has pushed most off this year's list, with only seven energy entries remaining. Facebook and Netflix both made the grade this year, joining a lot of cyclically sensitive businesses as well as a number companies riding the boom among Chinese consumers
But health care continues to be the big story. Lannett, a generic drug maker that expanded at a 314% annual rate over the last three years, topped the list. Gilead Sciences, with a three-year growth rate of 67%, was the largest company to make the cut. Healthcare provider Centene of Missouri was also in the top 10. Other economic trends may come and go, but demographics is destiny.
Also out this morning is the speaker roster for our Brainstorm E (energy and the environment) conference in Austin next month (Sept. 28 & 29). It’s a great line up. I’ll be interviewing Whole Foods co-CEO Walter Robb at the event about his company's struggle to combat rising competition in the rapidly changing natural and organic food business. Attendance is by invitation only, but special consideration is given to CEO Daily readers. If interested, go here.
More news below.
• Cable customers keep cutting the cord
A new estimate concludes the top 8 cable companies lost 463,000 subscribers in the second quarter of 2015 compared to a decline of 141,000 in the same period last year, with the analyst who published the research warning there is nothing to suggest that trend will change. This explains why cable shares have lost billions in their market value this month, as investors worry about how the industry can defensively respond. Fortune
• 'Female Viagra' wins approval
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the first drug to treat a lack of female sexual desire, a treatment that has been coined "female Viagra," after the agency had rejected the drug twice in the past. The approval comes with some controversy: some lament the side effects while others say there is a need to offer an option to female patients. Sprout Pharmaceuticals will sell the drug under the brand name ADDYI. Time
• Asia shares rattled again
Shares in Asia retreated to two-year lows on Wednesday as Chinese stocks suffered another steep decline. The Shanghai Composite Index slipped 2.8%, extending Tuesday's 6% drop, amid growing concerns the government could be scaling back its rescue efforts. "Investors care about these two things - China's economy and the timing of a U.S. rate hike. These two concerns dominate their minds now," said one markets observer. Reuters
• Ashley Madison data exposed
Hackers that stole massive amounts of user data from cheating website Ashley Madison have carried out their threat to publish that data online, releasing details about the site's customers on Tuesday. The data dump reportedly includes login details of about 32 million users – all who were on the site to seek extra-marital or illicit affairs. The website owner, Avid Life Media, has called the hacking attack "criminality." Time
Around the Water Cooler
• Why Angela Merkel can win again
Bloomberg makes a case for why German Chancellor Angela Merkel has endeared herself to Germans even as she faces criticism abroad. In her decade in power, Merkel's Germany has seen tumbling unemployment, a push to balance the budget and a stock-market rally that's outperformed international peers. She's now more popular than when she won her first election in September 2005, and one poll this month showed that her bloc is within reach of an absolute majority if elections were held now. Bloomberg
• The grad-school loan binge
Student debt has soared to some $1.19 trillion, raising concerns about how that much debt will hurt Americans down the road: curbing discretionary spending, hindering their ability to buy a house, and raising worries about what happens if too many can't pay their loans back. But WSJ points out that there is little outcry as to how much debt is taken on by postgraduate borrowers, which account for roughly 40% of all student debt but represent just 14% of students in higher education. Federal programs allow grad students to borrow essentially unlimited amounts – and critics say that is problematic. WSJ (subscription required)
• Facebook's 'news' dominates Google
Members of the media are well aware that both Facebook and Google are huge drivers of website traffic. But new data suggests that Facebook isn't just competing with Google in that space, it has overtaken the search engine company by a large margin. One firm estimates social-media sources, of which Facebook is the largest, accounted for about 43% of traffic to Parse.ly's network of more than 400 major news and media outlets. Google accounted for just 38%. Fortune