UPDATE 3-Cement groups Lafarge, Holcim in $50bn-plus merger talks
* Merged group would have market value of over $50 bln
* A merger could help cut costs for both indebted groups
* Any deal could raise major anti-trust concerns (Adds detail on both companies, context)
By Natalie Huet and Alice Baghdjian
PARIS/ZURICH, April 4 (Reuters) - The world's two largest cement makers, France's Lafarge and Switzerland's Holcim, are in advanced talks to merge into a company with a stock market value of over $50 billion in what would be the industry's biggest ever tie-up.
The discussions, which are likely to draw close scrutiny from European competition watchdogs, are "based on principles consistent with a merger of equals", the two companies said in identical statements on Friday.
They said no agreement had yet been reached and that there was no guarantee of a deal, but there was a "strong complementarity" and "cultural proximity" between the groups.
A merger would help Lafarge and Holcim slash costs, trim debt and better cope with the soaring energy prices and weaker demand that have hurt the sector since the 2008 economic crisis.
But any deal is likely to draw scrutiny from European competition watchdogs, as a Lafarge-Holcim entity would have a dominant position in both Europe and the United States. Regulators would probably require the companies to shed cement plants and distribution facilities before approving any merger. Continuación...