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Europe is set to clear Xstrata, Glencore link

Europe will give the green light to Glencore and Xstrata's £56bn mega-merger today, removing the last significant hurdle to their plan to create a mining and commodities trading powerhouse.

Three days after shareholders approved the deal, and barring any last-minute hitches, EU competition chief Joaquin Almunia will clear the transaction on competition grounds with only the minimal condition that Glencore terminates its contracts to sell the entire output of Nyrstar, the Swiss zinc-smelting company.

It is understood that Xstrata will be allowed to keep its San Juan de Nieva smelter in Spain, the world's biggest zinc plant, and its Nordenham zinc plant in Germany.

"This really means the deal is done," said Charles Stanley analyst Tom Gidley-Kitchin, adding that he would be "really surprised" if China's outstanding competition review made any significant demands.

The deal is also set to pass its only other outstanding review, in South Africa, after the country's competition commission recommended that its regulator, the competition tribunal, give it the green light.

The EU decision gives Xstrata a much-needed boost following the surprise resignation of its chairman Sir John Bond on Tuesday night, shortly after shareholders approved the merger. He resigned after Xstrata investors voted overwhelmingly to block a controversial £140m package of retention bonuses he had sought to tie into the transaction.