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MEXICO CITY, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Mexico's Cemex said on Thursday its third-quarter loss narrowed from the previous year and that it ruled out bidding on any assets up for sale as part of a merger between its two bigger rivals, boosting its shares.
Holcim and Lafarge, the world's two largest cement makers, have put together a list of assets to sell as they look to win clearance from competition regulators for their planned mega-merger. Analysts had thought Cemex might be among those interested in bidding.
But Cemex is focused on recovering the company's investment-grade rating and for that reason will not bid for any Holcim or Lafarge assets, Chief Executive Officer Fernando Gonzalez told analysts on a call.
Shares in Cemex rose 3.24 percent to 16.23 pesos after the comment. They had risen less than one percent after the company earlier reported a narrower, but worse than expected, third-quarter loss.
"We believe that at this point in time, we don't need additional assets...to create value," Gonzalez said.
Cemex said its third-quarter loss narrowed to $106 million from $155 million in the same three months a year earlier.
Sales rose 3 percent to $4.1 billion, helped by higher prices and a pickup in some of Cemex's biggest markets, including the United States and Mexico. Excluding currency fluctuations, the increase would have been 4 percent.
Cemex has hiked prices to combat weak sales in Mexico, where an expected package of government infrastructure projects has been slow to launch, and in other sluggish markets.
Still, the boost from higher sales volumes in Mexico and the U.S. was not as much as analysts had expected for the third quarter and Cemex missed expectations of quarterly sales of $4.29 billion, according to a Reuters poll.
If the company had met those estimates, it would have reduced the quarterly loss to $37 million, the poll showed.
Cemex, which has a heavy debt load from expensive acquisitions made just before the financial crisis, said earlier this year that its corporate strategy was focused on recovering its investment-grade debt rating.
Cemex's credit rating stands at B-plus, four notches below investment grade.
Separately, Cemex raised its investment-spending forecast for 2014 to $765 million from $670 million. (Reporting by Elinor Comlay; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn, James Dalgleish and Alan Crosby)