CRH to team up with Mexican rival Cemex to explore bid for Lafarge

Irish cement maker CRH (CRH.I) has teamed up with Mexican rival Cemex (CMXCPO.MX) to explore a bid for all the assets industry giants Lafarge (LAFP.PA) and Holcim (HOLN.VX) must sell to get the go-ahead for their planned merger from competition watchdogs, according to several people familiar with the matter.

Germany’s Heidelberg Cement (HEIG.DE) and Brazilian firm Votorantim Cimentos SA (VCSI.UL) are also considering a joint bid for the entire portfolio, the sources said.

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These would compete with several private equity groupings that have been formed to pursue a deal for the assets, which could be valued at anywhere between 4 billion and 7 billion euros (3.11 – 5.50 billion pounds), they said.

Teaming up would allow companies to carve up the assets according to their geographic fits and would also help split the cost.

A spokesman for Cemex said it does not comment on market rumours, while HeidelbergCement and CRH declined to comment. No one at Votorantim Cimientos was immediately available for comment.

A spokeswoman for Lafarge declined to comment beyond saying the companies are on track to close the merger in the first half of next year. Holcim declined to comment.

Lafarge and Holcim unveiled plans in April to create the world’s biggest cement group with $44 billion in yearly sales.

But 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.

The pair are seeking buyers for Holcim’s French activities, Lafarge’s German interests and other operations in Austria, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Britain, Canada, the Philippines, Mauritius and Brazil. That would affect some 10,000 workers and account for about 3.5 billion euros ($4.4 billion) of sales.

Holcim said last month the two companies were seconding one senior manager each to a divestment committee to advance plans for the disposals, which could involve setting up a new business as well as outright sales.

In the event of any spin-off, the two managers would be the chief executive and chief financial officer of the company, Holcim said, in a move that could facilitate a sale to private equity firms.

Turkish conglomerate Sabanci Holding (SAHOL.IS) plans to bid for some of the assets, while other strategic bidders could also team up to bid for the assets.

At least four consortia of private equity firms are also eyeing the entire portfolio, sources familiar with the matter said.

BC Partners, Advent and Temasek (TEM.UL) have teamed up, as have CVC and sovereign wealth funds the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) and Singapore’s GIC. Bain and Onex form the third group and Blackstone (BX.N), Cinven and Canadian pension fund CPP are the fourth.

Blackstone, CVC, BC Partners, Advent, Cinven, Bain, CPP and ADIA all declined to comment. The other firms could not immediately be reached for comment.

(1 US dollar = 0.7910 euros) Source: Reuters.