Irish cement maker CRH plc is exploring a bid for all assets rivals Lafarge SA and Holcim Ltd. must sell to avoid significant hurdles from antitrust authorities with their proposed merger, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters. Four consortia of private equity firms are also eyeing the portfolio, with bids valuing the assets at $6.5 billion-$9 billion expected soon.
Lafarge and Holcim are seeking buyers for Holcim's French activities, Lafarge's German ones and other operations in Austria, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Britain, Canada, the Philippines, Mauritius and Brazil. The sell-off would affect some 10,000 workers and account for about $4.49 million of sales.
CRH is embarking on its own divestment plan under new CEO Albert Manifold and plans to sell at least 10 percent, or $1.93 - $2.57 billion worth, of net assets. Manifold said Holcim and Lafarge’s sale of mainly big cement businesses would not overlap with CRH's divestment of smaller, mainly European-based product-type subsidiaries. CRH, which has adopted a strategy of smaller bolt-on acquisitions in recent years, has the capacity to spend some $1.92 billion on deals going forward, Manifold said in May.
The Lafarge-Holcim merger, unveiled in April, would create the world’s biggest cement maker, with $44 billion of annual sales. The move would help the pair slash costs, trim debt and cope better with rising energy prices and sluggish demand. Lafarge and Holcim have said they hoped to formally request EU approval for the merger by the end of this month, with an aim to close the deal by the first half of 2015.