TWO major construction materials firms today moved closer to a tie-up in the UK with the £272million sale of plants and quarries to Britain’s richest man.

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Tarmac owner Anglo American and France’s Lafarge were told to sell off the assets to address competition concerns over a proposed merger of their UK operations.

Today’s deal with steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal’s investment vehicle includes one of the UK’s largest cement plants in Hope, Derbyshire.

The Competition Commission said in May the two groups must pave the way for a new competitor into the UK cement market to ensure the joint venture did not damage competition.

It said at the time there were only four UK producers of bulk cement and there was evidence that competition had not been as effective as it could be.

The assets it earmarked, and which are covered by today’s deal, include operations supporting Lafarge’s Hope facility and more than half the planned joint venture’s ready-mixed concrete capacity.

A nearby quarry and three linked rail depots, along with six aggregate quarries and two asphalt plants will also be sold to Mittal Investments.

Lafarge and Anglo American said they now expected the joint venture to be approved early next year.

France’s Lafarge entered the UK market in 1987 before acquiring Redland in 1997 and Blue Circle in 2001 and currently employs about 2,800 people in the UK. Tarmac is the UK’s largest quarrying firm, with a workforce of around 4,500.

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