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Phillips-Conoco merger gets conditional nod

Washington, Aug. 31 (Reuters): Phillips Petroleum Co. and Conoco Inc. won conditional approval from US antitrust authorities on Friday for their $15.4 billion combination and closed the deal to create the No. 3 US oil company.

The companies will have to divest some assets across the country under the proposed consent decree unanimously approved by the Federal Trade Commission. The new company will be named ConocoPhillips and trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol COP.

“Especially noteworthy is our action in the Rocky Mountain region where divestitures will maintain competition in the gasoline refining market,” Joe Simons, head of the FTC’s competition bureau, said in a statement.

The deal between the long-time rivals was first announced in November, becoming the latest in a long line of takeovers in the oil industry. It will trail only Nos. 1 and 2 Exxon Mobil Corp. and ChevronTexaco Corp. as the largest oil company in the United States.

Like ExxonMobil and ChevronTexaco, both created through consolidation, ConocoPhillips is banking on its size and financial strength to help it develop projects that are often far flung, politically treacherous and costly.

Its oil and gas production will run at about 1.7 million barrels a day, while it will have the ability to process 2.6 million barrels a day of oil at its refineries.

Asset Sales

Archie Dunham, who will shift from chief executive at Conoco to chairman of the board at ConocoPhillips, described the company in a prepared statement as a “tough new major competitor in the international petroleum industry.”

The companies will have to sell Phillips’ refinery in Woods Cross, Utah and related marketing assets; Conoco’s refinery in Commerce City, Colorado and Phillips’ marketing assets in eastern Colorado.

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