Halliburton, the US oil services group, has been forced to delay for a second time its planned $26bn acquisition of rival Baker Hughes, after failing to reach an agreement with US competition regulators.
The US Department of Justice has told the two companies that the disposals they have offered to mitigate the deal's affect on competition are inadequate, but has not yet launched a legal action to block the takeover.
Instead, the two companies have agreed a final deadline of April 30 next year for closing the deal, and plan to continue their discussions with the DoJ in an attempt to secure approval.
The delays forced by the DoJ follow moves by US antitrust officials to block a series of high-profile deals this year, over fears that consolidation among large companies can hurt consumers and smaller businesses.
In November last year Halliburton agreed a deal to buy Baker Hughes, mostly in shares, which was valued at $38bn at the time but is now worth about $26bn because of the 18 per cent fall in the buyer's shares since the deal was announced.
The companies say the deal will help the oil and gas production companies that are their customers, because it would allow them to operate more cost effectively, "which is increasingly important due to the current state of the energy industry and oil and gas prices".