(Adds comment from Ball, background on the deal, divestiture)
By Diane Bartz
WASHINGTON, June 28 (Reuters) - Ball Corp and Rexam Plc, the world’s two largest beverage can makers, have won U.S. antitrust approval to merge on condition that they sell eight aluminum can plants in the United States, the Federal Trade Commission said on Tuesday.
The deal has also won antitrust approval in Europe and Brazil. No further regulatory approvals were needed, said Ball spokeswoman Renee Robinson. The deal is likely to close soon but no date is set, she said.
Colorado-based Ball said last year that it would buy British rival Rexam for 4.43 billion pounds ($6.35 billion) to improve efficiency and cut costs. The two companies account for 60 percent of beverage can supply in North America, 69 percent in Europe and 74 percent in Brazil, according to Morningstar analysts.
The European Commission cleared the deal in January, subject to the divestment of 12 plants. Brazil cleared it in early June.
European packaging maker Ardagh Group has agreed to buy divested assets for $3.42 billion, including 12 plants in Europe, eight in the United States and two in Brazil.
The assets being sold accounted for $3 billion of sales and around $375 million of core earnings in 2015, Ball said.
Luxemburg-based Ardagh has said the deal would make it the world’s third-largest beverage can maker, with 110 facilities and sales of more than $8.8 billion.
The FTC was concerned about price increases for standard 12-ounce cans in the U.S. South, Midwest and West. It was also concerned about nationwide sales of specialty cans, often used for energy drinks and other products.
Ardagh will buy plants in California, Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, Ohio (two), North Carolina and South Carolina. It will also acquire Rexam’s headquarters in Illinois and another Rexam facility in the state. (Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Matthew Lewis)