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Gerdau Ameristeel going private in $1.6 billion deal

Brazil's Gerdau SA is buying the remaining shares it doesn't own of Tampa-based steel producer Gerdau Ameristeel Corp. for $1.6 billion.

If the plan announced Wednesday is approved by Gerdau Ameristeel shareholders, the company would become a private, wholly owned subsidiary of Gerdau SA.

Gerdau Ameristeel is currently the fourth-largest public company based in the Tampa Bay area with annual revenue of $4.2 billion. Another of the bay area's biggest public companies, Walter Energy, is relocating to Birmingham, Ala., this summer.

The mini-mill steel producer has 8,057 employees, including 358 at its Tampa headquarters. Company officials were not available for comment. But in a response to queries from the Times, the company issued a statement saying the deal is not expected to have any impact on the management team, headed by CEO Mario Longhi, or staffing at its corporate offices.

"If the transaction is approved, Gerdau Ameristeel's corporate offices in both Tampa and Toronto will be unaffected and will continue to operate as normal," the statement read.

Gerdau has been hit hard by the recession, which has been more akin to a depression in the construction industry on which it depends. With demand for steel plummeting since 2008, the company streamlined operations, cut staff and froze salaries.

Last year, its revenue fell 51 percent, and it posted a net loss of $162 million.

A special board committee unanimously recommended going private, the company said in a statement. It said Gerdau Ameristeel would enjoy a lower cost of funding because of Gerdau SA's stronger credit ratings. The Brazilian parent indicated it would fund the deal through existing cash resources and committed financing.

Gerdau SA already owns 66 percent of outstanding shares. The offer of $11 a share represents a 53.4 percent premium over its June 1 closing price of $7.17. RBC Capital Markets, hired as an independent valuator, had estimated the value of the company between $11 and $13 a share. Gerdau Ameristeel stock jumped 54 percent Wednesday to close at $11.07 a share.

Gerdau Ameristeel going private in $1.6 billion deal 06/02/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 2, 2010 9:03pm]
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