French groups to sell $452m UK assets to Mittal
London, November 17, 2012
Cement maker Lafarge and miner Anglo American have agreed to sell British assets for up to £285 million ($452 million) to Indian steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal, thus clearing the way for a building materials joint venture in the country.
The sale was a condition set by Britain's Competition Commission to allow the two firms to combine their building materials activities.
Lafarge and Anglo said yesterday they would sell a number of construction materials operations in Britain as well as Anglo unit Tarmac's 50 per cent interest in Midland Quarry Products, one of the UK's main suppliers of hard rock and asphalts.
Nomura analysts said the deal could be seen as a positive for investors fretting over a potential rights issue at the Mittal family's debt-burdened flagship asset, ArcelorMittal , the world's largest steelmaker.
"Spending $450 million on construction material assets now does not necessarily sound like someone who is thinking about imminently piling in a few billion dollars into his steel business as part of an equity raise," they said.
Anglo, refocusing on core mining activities, struggled for more than three years to find a buyer for Tarmac before agreeing last year to a joint venture with France-based Lafarge's British cement, aggregates, concrete and asphalt businesses.
The price for the assets, which include one of the UK's largest cement plants, includes up to £30m contingent on future performance.
A Lafarge spokeswoman said the company would receive around 160m euros ($205 million) from the sale of its British assets, which it would use to cut its debt.
She added that with this deal, Lafarge had raised nearly 650m euros from asset sales this year against a target of at least one billion euros.
The French company has been shedding non-core assets and refocusing on its cement and concrete business after the debt it racked up to acquire Middle Eastern cement maker Orascom in 2007 led to the loss of its investment-grade credit rating last year.
The Competition Commission began looking into the proposed venture, which would have rung up annual sales worth £1.8 billion ($2.9 billion) in 2010, after the tie-up was challenged by the country's consumer affairs watchdog, the Office of Fair Trading, in September last year.-Reuters