NEW YORK (The Deal) -- Cement makers Holcim (HCMLY) and Lafarge (LFRGY) said late Monday, May 4, that they had secured U.S. and Canadian regulatory approval for their planned $39 billion merger after the Federal Trade Commission signed off on the companies' agreements to divest of North American assets.
The approval, which was the last regulatory hurdle to the merger, was granted after the would-be partners lined up buyers for all of the North American cement assets they had put on the block.
Lafarge and Holcim have now found buyers for all but two assets they put up for sale in the weeks after they announced their merger plans. Only Lafarge's Sonadih cement plant in India and Holcim's assets in Mauritius remains to be sold.
The North American regulators' approval means the merger remains on track to close in July -- assuming it gains the support of the holders of three-quarters of Holcim's shares at a meeting on May 8 and that Lafarge shareholders then back the merger by tendering their shares.
Holcim's initially hesitant shareholders are now widely expected to vote on Friday in favor of a capital increase needed to execute the planned share swap with Lafarge. On Monday, Holcim's No. 3 shareholder, Harris Associates, broke its long silence on the combination when it said it had already voted its roughly 5% stake in support of the deal. It joined Eurocement Holding, which last week said it will vote its 10.8% stake in favor of the merger, and Holcim's 20.11% owner, Thomas Schmidheiny, who had already given his backing to the deal.
Lafarge shareholders will meet at their company's general meeting on May 7, though their verdict on the merger will be delivered in the weeks after the Holcim meeting when they will be invited to tender their shares to the offer. At least three-quarters of Lafarge shares must be tendered to the offer during a five-week period that is expected to begin shortly after the Holcim vote.
The merger has the support of the French company's two largest shareholders, Groupe Bruxelles Lambert, which owns 21.1%, and NNS Holding Sarl, which has 13.9%.
Lafarge shareholders are due to receive 0.9 of a Holcim share for each share they hold, leaving Holcim shareholders with 53% of the combined group.
Shares in Lafarge traded Tuesday at €66.83 ($74.20), up €0.85, or 1.3%, on their Monday close. Holcim shares traded at Sfr 76.50 ($81.68), up Sfr0.90, or 1.2%.