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    Phillips-Conoco Merger Nears Approval

    The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) could approve the deal within days, according to sources close to the deal.

    WASHINGTON -- Federal antitrust regulators will likely approve the $15.1 billion merger of Phillips Petroleum Co. and Conoco Inc., clearing the way for the creation of the nation's third-largest oil company, a person familiar with the deal told the Associated Press.

    The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) could approve the deal within days, the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Phillips spokesman Sam Falcona and Conoco spokesman Carlton Adams declined to comment, as did an FTC spokesman.

    If the merger goes through, the FTC is expected to require the companies to sell some gas stations and refineries in the West to ensure competition. Phillips and Conoco already have begun doing so, the report said.

    The combined company will be the country's top refiner and a gas retailing giant, with about 17,000 filling stations nationwide. Conoco sells gasoline, diesel fuel, and other petroleum products at 5,000 outlets in the United States, while Phillips sells fuel at more than 12,000 stations under brands such as Phillips 66, Circle K, and 76.

    The new company -- named ConocoPhillips -- would be based in Houston. The deal puts it in the number three position behind Exxon Mobil Corp. and ChevronTexaco Corp. in the United States, and ranks it sixth-largest in the world.

    In preparation for the merger, company officials have said that Bartlesville, Okla.-based Phillips is selling its Woods Cross refinery near Salt Lake City and 25 gasoline stations in Utah and southern Wyoming. Houston-based Conoco is unloading its 60,000-barrel-a-day refinery in Commerce City, Colo., the company said.

    The deal was announced in November and shareholders approved it in March. The 16-member board will have eight members each from Phillips and Conoco. Conoco chairman Archie Dunham is to be chairman until 2004, when Phillips chairman Jim Mulva, who will be CEO, takes over.

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