WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) — The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced Nov. 15 that, following a public comment period, it has approved an application from HeidelbergCement AG and Italcementi SPA to sell the Essroc cement plant in Martinsburg, West Virginia, eight cement terminals in the Mid-Atlantic, and related assets to Argos USA LLC, a subsidiary of Cementos Argos S.A.
Heidelberg and Italcementi are the second and fourth largest producers of cement in the world and compete in the United States through subsidiaries Lehigh Hanson and Essroc Cement Corp. These subsidiaries sell Portland cement, an important ingredient in making concrete.
The divestiture comes after a June complaint and August final order settling charges that Heidelberg’s merger with Italcementi, valued at $4.2 billion, would be anti-competitive. The FTC alleged the affected markets would include Baltimore-Washington, D.C.; Richmond, Virginia; Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, Virginia; Syracuse, New York; and Indianapolis.
According to the initial complaint, the merged firm would also be more likely to unilaterally raise prices in the affected markets, which would, in turn, make it easier for other companies to do so. As a result, cement consumers would allegedly face higher prices throughout the markets.
The FTC voted 3-0 to approve the divestiture.