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Dillard-Mercantile Deal Cleared

(AP) Dillard's Inc. has received federal clearance to proceed with its $2.9 billion takeover of Mercantile Stores Co. Inc.

The merger is to be completed Thursday. The Federal Trade Commission examined the deal to determine whether it would hurt market competition. But the government raised no objection by a Monday deadline.

The acquisition will increase Dillard's presence in the Midwest and solidify its position as the nation's No. 3 retailer behind No. 1 Federated Department Stores Inc. and May Department Stores Co.

Mercantile store names will disappear within the coming months as Dillard's nameplates go up on the stores.

Dillard's, based in Little Rock, Ark., has agreed to sell or swap 33 of Mercantile's 103 stores to three retailers, May, Belk Inc. and Proffitt's Inc. The merger will give Dillard's a total of 350 stores in 27 states.

Dillard's management said Wednesday it plans to close Mercantile's corporate headquarters in this southwest Ohio city, eliminating 1,000 jobs within the next few months. Most of the corporate administrative functions for the newly acquired Mercantile stores are to be handled from Little Rock. Others will continue from a Mercantile regional office in Louisville, Ky.

Mercantile's stores, operated in 17 states, are Bacons, Castner Knott, deLendrecie's, Gayfers, Lion, Block, Hennessy's, Joslins, McAlpin's, Maison Blanche, J.B. White, Jones, and Roots.