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News In Brief

Compiled from wire service reports by Samar Farah, Robert Kilborn, and Judy Nichols

Alcoa, the world's largest producer of aluminum, is undertaking a plan to shave $1 billion in costs over the next three years, senior executives said. But they said the initiative does not include layoffs. The Pittsburgh-based company ended a previous $1.1 billion cost-reduction drive in December. Earlier this week, Alcoa sold off its Thiokol rocket-propulsion unit to Alliant Techsystems of Minneapolis for $685 million in cash.

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Blockbuster Inc. was sued by a group of 150 privately owned video stores on grounds that it has used its "market power and influence" with major motion picture studios to drive small competitors out of business. The class-action suit, filed in superior court in Los Angeles, alleges that the Dallas-based company negotiated secret revenue-sharing arrangements on behalf of its 7,500 outlets with the studios. The suit seeks unspecified damages.

The pace of layoffs quickened in the US and elsewhere as:

* Corus Group, once known as British Steel, said 6,050 workers would be laid off, confirming speculation earlier this week when it rejected an offer by one of its unions to buy a mill in Llanwern, Wales. The downsizing is expected to have important repercussions in a nation that soon must hold a national election.

* Deutsche Bank, the largest in Germany, announced it would cut 2,600 jobs - more than half of them in the US and Latin America.

* Green Bay, Wis.-based ShopKo Stores Inc., a major regional discount retailer, said it will close 23 outlets in seven states, resulting in 2,500 layoffs.

* Valeo SA, an international supplier of auto parts based in Paris, announced plans to cut 1,000 employees in North America, mainly in the US.

* Alltel Corp. confirmed reports that it is reducing its workforce by another 400 employees, on top of 400 other positions that have not been filled since early last fall. The telecommunications company is based in Little Rock, Ark.

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(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society