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French steel group Usinor SA said Wednesday that its planned three-way merger with Spain’s Aceralia Siderurgica SA and Luxembourg’s Arbed SA will not be given to European Union regulators for review until May. When the $3.1 billion deal, the largest-ever in the steel sector, was hammered out in late February, the companies planned to present the merger to the European Commission, the EU’s executive agency, by early March. But while such prompt notifications are not unheard of, with such a complex case, the deadline would have been hard to meet. Adopting a forthright approach from the outset, Usinor Chairman Francis Mer revealed that the companies expected the deal to be subject to a detailed four-month EU regulatory review and that concessions were likely to be made in the distribution and flat-products markets. Getting the notification right for a deal that will require in-depth scrutiny is taking more time than had been expected. “There has been a decision to postpone the notification from early March until May,” said Usinor spokesperson Katia Wosniak, who would not say why notification had been delayed. She added, however, that completion of the deal is still slated for autumn. About a year ago, the Commission blocked another three-way merger in the metals industry, among international aluminum companies Alcan Aluminium Ltd., Pechiney SA and Alusuisse Lonza Group Inc., after the companies failed to agree on which assets to sell to address EU concerns. Under the terms of the Usinor deal, the French company is buying its counterparts for about $3.1 billion and will hold 56.5 percent of the enlarged entity. Arbed will have a 23.4 percent share, while Aceralia will hold 20.1 percent. The group will be headed jointly by Mer and Arbed Chairman Joseph Kintsch. Copyright (c)2001 TDD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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