The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) gave HeidelbergCement permission to complete its acquisition of Italcementi assets in the US on 17 June 2016. This was the second and final major competition body that could have challenged the purchase, following approval by the European Commission in late May 2016. Although the FTC consent now faces a month for comment the deal is looking likely to complete towards the end of the summer.
HeidelbergCement and Italcementi have gotten away with having to sell just one cement plant and 11 terminals in the US. The Lafarge-Holcim merger in 2015 had it tougher. Those companies were forced to sell two cement plants, two slag grinding plant and a host of terminals. Admittedly LafargeHolcim is now the biggest cement producer in the US (and the world) but HeidelbergCement will hold more integrated cement plants in the US following its acquisition.
As predicted the FTC took exception with the proximity of the company’s assets in West Virginia and Pennsylvania following the acquisition. So the parties have agreed to sell the Essroc Martinsburg integrated cement plant in West Virginia. When Global Cement visited the plant in late 2013 the staff told us that cement from the plant was distributed from central Ohio eastwards to western Pennsylvania and south to southern Virginia. The plant also switched over to a FLSmidth dry production line in 2010 giving it a clinker production capacity of 1.6Mt/yr, making it one of the newer plants in the Essroc stable.
The FTC also flagged up competition concerns in five metropolitan areas: Baltimore-Washington, DC; Richmond, Virginia; Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, Virginia; Syracuse, New York; and Indianapolis, Indiana. In light of this the proposed consent agreement requires the merged company to divest seven Essroc terminals in Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania and a Lehigh terminal in Solvay, New York. Two additional Essroc terminals in Columbus and Middlebranch, Ohio are to be sold at the option of the buyer and subject to FTC approval. Finally, Essroc’s terminal in Indianapolis is to be sold to Cemex.
Funnily enough, the FTC took about a year to approve both the merger of Lafarge and Holcim and HeidelbergCement’s purchase of Italcementi. This compares to the European Commission which took nine months to approve the Lafarge-Holcim deal but which took 11 months to clear the HeidelbergCement-Italcementi one. Given the greater overlap of assets of the Lafarge-Holcim merger in both Europe and the US one might have thought that the approval process would have taken longer. Or maybe bureaucracy moves at a speed all of its own. Read into this what you will. The creation of the world’s second largest multinational cement producer draws closer.