BCI gets go-ahead for Greek deal

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Blue Circle Industries, the cement maker fighting a hostile £3.5bn bid from France's Lafarge, yesterday said it had received approval from the Greek Competition Committee for the £388m acquisition of a controlling interest in the Heracles & Halkis cement group.

The deal, which will make BCI the leading operator in Greece and strengthen its position in the Mediterranean region, is expected to bolster its defence as it starts a week's tour aimed at persuading institutional shareholders to reject Lafarge's revised 450p-a-share offer.

Rick Haythornthwaite, BCI chief executive, said: "We are delighted with the news... Contrary to Lafarge's statement on 10 April [questioning whether the Greek deal would go ahead], we are set for completion as we always promised shareholders. This acquisition... further emphasises the tremendous value in Blue Circle and the paucity of Lafarge's bid."

Under the terms, Blue Circle will buy 100 per cent of the equity of Calcemento International, a holding company that indirectly owns 54.48 per cent of the equity of Heracles General Cement Company and, also indirectly, an overall 72.65 per cent of Halkis Cement, including a 51 per cent stake held directly by Heracles. The £338m total consideration will be satisfied in cash and funded through BCI's existing debt facilities. The UK group will also assume Heracles's £17.5m of net debt.

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