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Sept. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Holcim Ltd. and Lafarge SA are holding talks with the European Union in a bid to obtain speedier approval of their plan to create the world’s biggest cement maker, according to two people familiar with the discussions.
Holcim and Lafarge are aiming to iron out possible EU concerns over the merged company’s market power before filing for approval of the deal, a step which kick starts the EU’s official review, said the two people who asked not to be named because the talks aren’t public. Addressing EU issues at an early stage may allow regulators to approve the deal without opening an in-depth probe, which could add about four months to the process, the people said.
The companies announced a wave of divestments in July in an attempt to ward off regulatory obstacles to the creation of a global cement giant with about $40 billion in annual revenue. Planned sales are weighted toward Europe, cutting exposure of both companies to the slower-growing region. European plants earmarked for divestment include sites in Austria, France, Germany and Romania.
Talks with the EU include how to address remaining overlaps that could hamper competition in some markets even after planned asset sales, one of the people said. Discussions have taken longer than expected and may delay official notification to the EU, according to the people.
Lafarge Chief Executive Officer Bruno Lafont said in July the companies planned to notify the deal to the Brussels-based European Commission “during the summer.”
Plans to notify the EU are on track, Jona, Switzerland- based Holcim, said in an e-mail. The filing will take place within the range of the original schedule, it said. Christel des Royeries, a spokeswoman for Paris-based Lafarge, declined to comment.
Joaquin Almunia, the EU’s antitrust chief, said in April that he expected an in-depth probe of the cement deal. A spokesman for the European Commission declined to comment on the possibility of a faster review lasting about a month.
A first round of screening of bids for the assets on sale has taken place, two people said. Several successive screening phases will follow, one of the people said.
--With assistance from Francois de Beaupuy in Paris.
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