EU antitrust regulator objects to Cemex, Holcim deal in Spain: source

BRUSSELS Fri Jul 11, 2014 10:45am EDT

A Swiss national flag flies over Switzerland's Holcim cement production plant in Siggenthal April 7, 2014. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

A Swiss national flag flies over Switzerland's Holcim cement production plant in Siggenthal April 7, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Arnd Wiegmann

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Europe's antitrust regulator has objected to Cemex's (CMXCPO.MX) plan to acquire Holcim's (HOLN.VX) Spanish units, a person familiar with the matter said on Friday, denting the Mexican cement producer's hopes of getting EU approval without concessions.

Cemex and Holcim unveiled the deal in August last year, part of which included the Swiss-based peer taking over Cemex's German businesses. The European Commission cleared this deal unconditionally earlier this month.

The Spanish part however triggered an in-depth probe by the EU competition watchdog in April. Its preliminary review showed that the takeover would substantially curb competition in the grey cement market in certain parts of Spain.

"The European Commission has sent a statement of objections to the companies," the person said, referring to a document which backs up the EU watchdog's views that the deal would be a significant impediment to competition.

Reacting to the new, Cemex said: "We cannot comment and the process is following its normal course. Proper disclosure will be made when we have to make it."

Commission spokesman for competition policy, Antoine Colombani, and Holcim declined to comment.

Companies typically allay regulatory concerns by offering concessions such as asset sales or pledges giving rivals access to key infrastructure, networks or key technology.

The source said Cemex had offered some concessions during the Commission's preliminary review but these were not considered to be sufficient. The Commission has set a Sept. 5 deadline for its decision.

(Additional reporting by Gabriela Lopez in Monterrey and Joshua Franklin in Zurich; editing by Robin Emmott)

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