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Japan's Idemitsu family to accept merger with rival refiner Showa Shell

Decision clears last obstacle to forming nation's No 2 oil company

Showa Shell and Idemitsu expect the merger to help them accelerate growth in markets such as Southeast Asia.

TOKYO -- The founding family of Japanese oil company Idemitsu Kosan has signaled it will drop its opposition to long-stalled plans for a merger with rival Showa Shell Sekiyu, clearing the way for the two to combine next spring.

The family, which holds 28% of Idemitsu's shares, laid out conditions for its support in behind-the-scenes talks with management. Its demands included a pledge to uphold the principles espoused by founder Sazo Idemitsu, along with two board seats reserved for family members at the merged company. Idemitsu agreed to bring on the eldest son of Chairman Emeritus Shosuke Idemitsu as a director.

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