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Japan’s Idemitsu to delay Showa Shell stake purchase from Shell

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By Kentaro Hamada and Chris Gallagher | TOKYO

Japanese oil refiner Idemitsu Kosan (5019.T) will again delay its planned purchase of Showa Shell Sekiyu (5002.T) shares from Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L) because a review by the Japan Fair Trade Commission is still under way.

Idemitsu said in a statement on Monday it will postpone the purchase to either December or January, from its originally planned closure by this month. The delay is another setback for Idemitsu in its attempt to take over Showa Shell, delayed after stiff opposition from Idemitsu’s founding family.

Idemitsu’s management last month put a full takeover on hold indefinitely although it had planned to press ahead with a signed agreement to acquire a 33 percent of Showa Shell for about 170 billion yen ($1.6 billion) from Royal Dutch Shell.

The setbacks raise questions over whether the two firms will ever be able to combine businesses, given that the Idemitsu founding family, which owns just over a third of the company, could either block a full deal outright, or veto board decisions even if the deal itself was not blocked.

The family, led by 89-year-old patriarch Shosuke Idemitsu, has said the two companies are too different for any merger to work.

Idemitsu’s general manager of public relations, Soichi Kobayashi, said at a news conference on Monday that the Fair Trade Commission may be reviewing the matter carefully, but declined to comment on detailed exchanges with the regulator.

Kobayashi said Idemitsu was still experiencing difficulty in communications with the founding family. “We would continue to call for talks using various channels,” he said.

Idemitsu shares closed 1.1 percent higher on Monday, while Showa Shell’s rose 1.4 percent. The Nikkei 222 index rose 1.7 percent.

(Reporting by Kentaro Hamada and Chris Gallagher; Writing by Aaron Sheldrick; Editing by Edwina Gibbs and Kenneth Maxwell)

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