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Pharmecutical giant Novartis said it will pay $8.3 billion for control of German rival Hextal and the latter's US division, Eon Laboratories, in a move aimed at carving out a 10 percent share in the world market for generic drugs. Generics have lost their patent protections. But they also have been outpacing branded drugs in recent years, and Novartis said it expects sales in that market to reach $100 billion between now and 2010.

Despite a 26-month run of unprofitability, United Airlines won a new extension of its temporary financing from J.P. Morgan Chase, Citigroup, GE Capital, and other lenders. The 90-day extension - through Sept. 30 - amounts to a vote of confidence in the bankrupt carrier, analysts said. United said Friday that the new loan agreement includes reduced interest rates and a waiver of its January monthly earnings benchmark, which was missed.

Ending months of rumors, forest products giant Weyerhaeuser Co. agreed to sell its coastal timberlands and five sawmills in British Columbia to Brascan Corp. for just under $1 billion. Brascan, a real-estate, financial-services, and electrical-utility conglomerate, is based in Toronto. Weyerhaeuser's headquarters are in Federal Way, Wash.

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The Postal Service has opened discussions with American Airlines and US Airways about restoring them as mail haulers, The New York Times reported. But it said they must satisfy the service that they have plans in place to improve on-time performance before they can win back the business. The report quoted a postal service spokes-man as saying, "There is really no timeline." American and US Airways had carried about 15 percent of the service's 206 billion pieces of mail annually. But they were dropped earlier this month after being warned in December that frequent flight delays were causing thousands of pounds of first-class mail to be late.

Troubled Mitsubishi Motors Corp. denied a published report that its North American operations are for sale. President Osamu Masuko called a Wall Street Journal story on the matter "groundless" and disputed its account that a Mitsubishi representative had met with potential buyers at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit last month. Mitsubishi and DaimlerChrysler, however, confirmed that they have halted joint development of a midsized sedan.

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