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Family Business Roundup: Holcim and Lafarge, FCC, and Toyota

Holcim and Lafarge sell assets to win US backing; Esther Koplowitz secures stake in FCC; and Toyota posts record profit

Holcim and Lafarge sell assets to win US backing

Swiss family-owned cement maker Holcim and French counterpart Lafarage have agreed to sell several plants and terminals in the US and Canada, setting the stage for their impending merger.

The sale of assets in the US and Canada will help the two firms win regulatory approval for the $46 billion merger, which will create the largest cement manufacturer in the world.

US regulators said the sale of assets was necessary to protect consumers from the deal, as competition would be substantially lessened in 12 markets, particularly Detroit, Boston and New Orleans.

Holcim will sell slag cement plants in Chicago and New Jersey and terminals in Massachusetts, Michigan, Illinois, while Lafarage will sell its Davenport cement plant in Iowa and seven terminals along the Mississippi River.

The two companies say the mega deal will lead to cost savings of $1.5 billion annually, giving them a significant advantage over competitors in a struggling market.

Holcim, controlled by the founding Schmidheiny family, had net sales of $20.8 billion in 2014. Lafarage had net sales of $16.9 billion in 2013.

Esther Koplowitz secures stake in FCC

Spanish billionaire Esther Koplowitz has reached a deal to refinance personal debt in a move that will reportedly bring long-term financial stability to Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas (FCC).

The deal is part of a strategic recovery plan launched by FCC in 2013 and will see Koplowitz refinance personal debt from the company Dominum Dirección y Gestión, through which she owns her stake in FCC.

Koplowitz saw her stake drop from more than 50% to 22.4% in 2014, after Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim acquired a 25.6% stake in FCC through a rights offering.

Since the launch of the recovery plan, FCC Group has refinanced $6.2 billion of debt and divested non-core assets to a value of over $1.6 billion. The construction company has also seen international investment from Bill Gates and George Soros.

FCC had a turnover of €6.6 billion in 2013.

Toyota posts record annual profit 

Toyota Motor Corp, owned by the Toyoda family, announced today that its annual profit has surged 19% to a record 2.17 trillion yen ($18.1 billion), setting a new annual record for the Japanese carmaker.

Looking forward, the company said it is expecting 3.5% growth in profit to 2.25 trillion yen ($18.8 billion) for 2016, with sales in North America to grow 4.2% to 2.83 million.

President Akio Toyoda said the Japanese automaker appeared to be back on track for "sustainable growth," adding that the coming year would be a critical test.

"I think we are at a stage where we can move on to putting into practice what we have been preparing during the intentional pause," Toyoda said, referring to a recent strategy that seeks to ensure sales growth stays at a sustainable pace.

The Toyoda family founded Toyota in 1937.

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