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Shell-BG deal clears last regulatory hurdle

LONDON (Reuters) – Royal Dutch Shell cleared the final regulatory hurdle for its takeover of BG Group after receiving the green light from China on Monday, leaving the deal on track for completion by early 2016 following shareholder votes.

The combination will transform Shell into the world’s top liquefied natural gas (LNG) trader and a major offshore oil producer focused on Brazil’s rapidly-developing sub-salt oil basin that would rival Exxon Mobil’s <XOM.N> position as the world’s biggest international oil company.

The acquisition, worth about $70 billion when it was announced and the biggest in the sector in a decade, had already received mandatory and unconditional approvals from Australia, Brazil and the European Union.

Shell shares were little changes by 0815 GMT, while BG shares traded nearly 2 percent higher.

Last month, sources told Reuters that the Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) had pressed Shell to sweeten long-term LNG supply contracts as the world’s top energy consumer faces a large surfeit over the next five years.

Since its announcement on April 8, when oil was at around $55 a barrel, Shell has had to battle a slump in oil prices and investor concerns over the financial merits of the deal in the face of an extended period of weak energy prices.

Heralding a “more resilient and competitive” business, the Anglo-Dutch company slashed the combined group’s planned investment program, highlighted cost savings of $3.5 billion and announced plans for $30 billion in asset disposals to pay for the acquisition while maintaining the cherished dividend.

With the regulatory approvals out of the way, Shell and BG turn their focus to shareholders and will publish within weeks a prospectus containing information on the deal and the change in the share structure and also announce dates for general meetings where the transaction will be put to vote.

“We will now seek approval from both sets of shareholders as we move toward deal completion in early 2016,” Shell CEO Ben van Beurden said, according to the company statement.

The integration of the two companies has been planned by a joint committee in recent months but could encounter some difficulties as BG’s small and relatively nimble operations are merged with Shell’s much larger structure.

The deal could also result in job cuts where BG’s 5,000 jobs overlap with Shell’s nearly 100,000-strong work force.

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