Brussels gives green light to Lafarge's BCI bid

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The battle for control of Blue Circle Industries was back on yesterday after European regulators cleared the £3.4bn hostile bid from France's Lafarge.

The move restarted the bid timetable, on hold over the past three weeks while the two sides waited for Brussels' verdict.

The European Commission said it wanted just one small divestment by Lafarge - of a Danish concrete tile producer - but otherwise had no objections to the proposed deal. The all-clear had been expected.

The bid was restarted at Day 37, meaning that the UK cement producer must publish its final defence document today or tomorrow. BCI is expected to unveil a significant corporate restructuring.

Lafarge said yesterday: "Thus far, Blue Circle's defence has been based almost exclusively on claims and promises about the future, whilst ignoring its current problems."

BCI shares yesterday closed up 7.25p at 429.5p, well ahead of Lafarge's 409p offer price. Mark Hake, an analyst at Merrill Lynch, said Lafarge would have to raise its bid to about 460p.

With the comeback in old-economy shares in recent days, the delay in European approval of the Lafarge bid is thought to have favoured BCI, which has seen its share price rise along with the rest of the sector.