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PARIS, Feb 12 (Reuters) - France's Imerys has agreed to buy Illinois-based minerals and materials group AMCOL International Corp for about $1.6 billion including debt to strengthen its U.S. business, it said in a statement on Wednesday.
The acquisition, priced at $41 per AMCOL share and unanimously approved by the boards of both companies, is expected to generate "significant commercial and operational synergies", Imerys said.
The deal is also expected to boost earnings per share from the first full year of integration in 2015, Imerys said.
With revenue of more than $1 billion last year, AMCOL is a global leader in bentonite, a mineral with uses ranging from metal-casting in the auto industry to construction and drilling. Its energy services business also serves the expanding oil and gas market.
"This transaction will ... (allow) our enlarged group to become a better leader of mineral-based specialty solutions for industry, to strengthen its presence in the U.S., to be more innovative and to enhance its growth profile," Imerys Chief Executive Gilles Michel said.
Imerys said it would begin a tender offer within the next 10 days. The price per share represents a 19 percent premium to the volume weighted average closing price of AMCOL's stock over the last 30 trading days, it added.
Imerys plans to finance the deal with debt and said it had secured the necessary funding. The transaction is expected to close in the first half of 2014.
"Imerys expects to keep a comfortable headroom as regards its financial covenants and an investment grade credit rating," it said.
The French company also confirmed that its 2013 net income from current operations should be comparable to that of 2012, while net debt should be flat year-on-year as of end-2013.