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Business roundup

Lafarge and Holcim have received initial clearance from the European Commission for their proposed £30bn merger. The approval means the rival French and Swiss materials giants can go-ahead with a series of planned major disposals, including that of the Lafarge Tarmac business in the UK which was put up for sale in the summer.

Leading Australian contractor John Holland is being sold to China Communications Construction International by Leighton Holdings for £603M.

Danish consultancy Ramboll has bought US environment consultant Environ. The acquisition of 1,500-strong Environ puts Ramboll into the top 10 environmental consultancies globally with 2,700 experts working within environment, health and water worldwide and a total staff close to 12,500 employees working in 35 countries. Combined revenues now exceed £1bn.

Cutting the deficit should be the government's priority in 2015, the CBI has said, and it also called for major changes to preserve public services. In its new year message, the business lobby group said reducing the deficit is a "must" for whichever government takes power next year. It also suggested a radical education reform to scrap GCSEs at the age of 16 and introduce a scheme with options more geared to training for work introduced. It proposed integrating health and social care, and a significant increase in services available online to help the public sector save money.

Businesses with good ideas for how to encourage more integrated, collaborative supply chains in the construction industry could win a share of £2M in a competition from Innovate UK. It expects projects to last six to 12 months with total costs ranging from £50,000 to £150,000. The competition opens on 9 March with a deadling for registration of 15 April. More information here