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Cement giants Holcim and Lafarge said to be merging

PARIS — The boards of Holcim and Lafarge, two of the world’s largest construction materials companies, have agreed to merge, a person close to the discussions said Sunday.

The boards of the companies backed the deal Saturday, according to the person, who was not authorized to speak publicly. The person said a formal announcement was expected as soon as Monday.

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Holcim, based in Jona, Switzerland, near Zurich, and Lafarge, which is based in Paris, rank among the world’s biggest suppliers of cement and related products like stone, gravel, and sand. They had said on Friday that they were in advanced discussions to merge.

The two companies had combined worldwide revenue last year of more than $43 billion. Antitrust lawyers warn that it could be years before any fusion is achieved, as there would probably be regulatory demands for asset disposals in several of the areas in which they operate.

Both Holcim and Lafarge have been hurt by weakness in the European economy and are seeking to fend off the lower-cost Asian competitors that are making inroads.

“It’s not a question of being the biggest,” the person close to the discussions said, “it’s about being the most efficient.”

Competition authorities in the European Union were already investigating Holcim’s takeover of the northwestern European operations of Cemex, the Mexican cement giant. That was after they began investigating Cemex’s acquisition of Holcim in Spain.

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