UPDATE 1-CRH races Blackstone for Holcim, Lafarge assets -sources
(Adds CRH statement, Holcim comment)
By Arno Schuetze and Freya Berry
FRANKFURT/LONDON Jan 22 (Reuters) - Irish cement maker CRH and a consortium led by Blackstone are battling for assets which Lafarge and Holcim must sell ahead of their planned merger, several people familiar with the matter said.
One source said that CRH was seen as the front runner having put forward the highest offer for the assets with a bid of almost 6 billion euros ($6.8 billion), although it is still too close to call who might win.
The Blackstone consortium, which also includes Cinven and Canadian pension fund CPP, has bid 5.5 billion euros, a second source said.
Two of the people close to the transaction said that the sellers have not yet picked one bidder for exclusive talks, adding that such a step could be taken in the next few days.
One source said the sellers would make a decision on their assessment of transaction security, proposed financing and potential anti-trust issues, as well as price.
France's Lafarge and Swiss peer Holcim announced merger plans last year, hoping to cut costs and tackle overcapacity and weak demand. The new company will be the world's biggest cement maker with $44 billion in annual sales.
CRH confirmed discussions with Lafarge and Holcim in a statement on Thursday, adding a potential acquisition would likely be funded through a combination of existing cash balances, debt and an equity placing. Continuación...