PARIS Cement makers Lafarge SA and Holcim Ltd proposed a multi-billion euro series of asset sales on Monday as they seek regulatory approval for their merger to create the world's biggest cement maker.
The two companies need to shed assets generating about 5 billion euros ($6.8 billion) in annual revenue to help persuade competition watchdogs to back the proposed deal, unveiled in April and which would create a combined group with $44 billion in yearly sales.
The companies said they would seek buyers for operations in Austria, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Britain, Canada, the Philippines, Mauritius and Brazil, a series of sell-offs that would affect some 10,000 workers out of their global total of 130,000 and account for around 3.5 billion euros of sales.
Competition regulators in some 15 countries, as well as the European Commission, are expected to take a hard look at the deal, which brings together the world's top two cement makers with a combined stock market value of more than $55 billion.
Europe's top competition regulator, Joaquin Almunia, has said the merger would be subject to an in-depth review, known as a phase 2 examination.
Holcim Chief Executive Bernard Fontana said the companies had already received about 50 expressions of interest from potential buyers and would soon begin negotiations.
He said the assets had been selected based on their geographical and industrial overlap and how swiftly they could be sold at a good price. He did not elaborate. "This list represents most of the assets that both companies consider divesting as part of the planned merger. Other divestments will be unveiled in due time," Fontana told reporters on a conference call.
One unit for sale is a joint venture with mining group Anglo American Plc, which said it would sell to Lafarge its 50 percent stake for at least 885 million pounds ($1.5 billion) so the French group could then sell off the whole business.
Lafarge Tarmac employs around 6,000 workers. Lafarge's German operations for sale employ some 368 people.
Fontana added that the companies planned to officially apply for approval from EU competition regulators this summer. The tie-up is expected to be completed in the first half of 2015.
Shares in Lafarge were up 0.2 percent and shares in Holcim down 0.4 percent by 0945 GMT.
"There's no surprise in this list, and it's not over yet," said analyst Abdelkader Benchiha at investment bank Natixis. "More assets will have to be sold, maybe in India, the United States, or some of the countries already listed, like France."
He expects the groups to raise between 5 billion euros and 6 billion in total from asset sales.
Both Lafarge and Holcim have repeatedly said their merger, which would create a group with global headquarters in Zurich, would not entail any plant closures or industrial job cuts.
In terms of capacity, the assets for sale represent about 27 million tonnes of cement, 79 million tonnes of aggregates and 10 million tonnes of ready-to-use concrete, Fontana said.
($1 = 0.7345 euros)
(Additional reporting by Leila Abboud and Natalie Huet; Editing by Jason Neely and David Holmes)