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Gaz de France, Suez Merge Approved

Under the terms of the deal the French state will be the biggest shareholder with 34 percent stake

French gas major Gaz de France and the energy group Suez will be finalized in the second half of 2006, a joint statement from the two companies saidon Monday.

The combination of the two giants will create one of the largest energy groups in the world, worth more than 70 billion euros ($83.27 billion) with the French state remaining the largest stake.

Suez and GDF said in the statement that their merger would lead to "zero job loss."

The shareholders of Suez, the fifth-largest electricity group and sixth-largest gas group in Europe, will get a dividend of 1 euro per share, while GDF, the second-biggest gas operator in Europe, will be offered one Suez share for each ofits own share, which means GDF will in effect take over Suez.

Under the terms of the deal the French state will be the biggest shareholder with a "slightly more than 34 percent" stake in the new entity, ensuring it a sway over the company's decision-making, sources close to the deal said late Sunday.