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The Justice Department filed suit to block General Dynamics from buying Newport News Shipbuilding Inc., saying their $2.1 billion merger would result in a monopoly for building nuclear submarines as well as harming competition for other shipbuilding contracts. The Pentagon, meanwhile, threw its support behind a competing $2.1 billion bid by Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics' main competitor. General Dynamics and Newport News are the US's only nuclear submarine builders.

Eli Lilly, one of the US's largest makers of pharmaceuticals, announced it will hire 5,000 sales representatives over the next three years as it prepares to bring new drugs onto the market.

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In another heavy day of corporate layoff news:

• Sears, Roebuck said it will cut 4,900 jobs over the next 18 months and revise its merchandise offerings as part of a cost-cutting overhaul. The US's fourth-largest retailer outlined a new strategy that moves it closer in concept to a discount store.

• Another 4,500 job cuts were announced by Fujitsu, the Japanese electronics giant, on top of the 16,400 the company said in August it was eliminating.

• Eastman Kodak said it will eliminate up to 4,000 more jobs. The photography giant, which had targeted 3,500 layoffs in April, made the announcement as it reported that third-quarter profits fell 77 percent to $96 million.

Aer Lingus, the financially strapped national airline of Ireland, will be partially privatized, published reports said. They said the search is on for a buyer to take up to a 35 percent stake in the carrier, which has been losing $2.2 million a day because of the collapse in bookings on its transatlantic routes since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the US.