Various Halliburton equipment being stored at the equipment yard in Alvarado, Texas June 2, 2015. While giants like Halliburton, Baker Hughes and Schlumberger are weathering the slump by cutting tens of thousands of jobs, small- and medium-sized firms that make up at least half of the nearly $100 billion a year U.S. oil services industry that provides fracking sand and specialized chemicals for fracking have been hit far harder than their large, cash-rich rivals by the downturn, experts say. Picture taken on June 2, 2015. REUTERS/Cooper Neill©Reuters

The energy groups Halliburton and Baker Hughes are preparing to abandon their planned $28bn tie-up after antitrust authorities moved to block it, the latest megadeal to collapse this year as a result of government intervention.

People familiar with the matter said the companies were ready to call off the proposed transaction, which would have brought together the world’s second and third-largest oil services companies.

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The termination of Halliburton’s takeover of Texan rival Baker Hughes would come just weeks after the US government sued to prevent what was set to be one of the largest deals in the energy sector in recent years.

Authorities complained the combination would reduce competition to an unacceptable degree, distort energy markets and ultimately hurt consumers. Regulators in Europe also signalled opposition to the deal.

Halliburton, which has a market capitalisation of $35bn, and Baker Hughes, valued at $21bn, had planned to fight back against the lawsuit.

Their decision not to do so will require Halliburton to pay Baker Hughes a $3.5bn termination fee, a provision agreed during takeover talks.

The mooted collapse is the latest sign that challenges from the Obama administration, whether on taxation or competition grounds, are scotching large and complex mergers and acquisitions.

It comes less than four weeks after the White House’s push to deter “tax inversion” deals prompted the drugmaker Pfizer to scrap its planned $160bn bid for Ireland-based Allergan.

Even before the latest planned cancellation, the total value of abandoned transactions this year was at its highest since 2007 — a stark turnround from 2015, when global dealmaking reached an all-time high.

The cash and shares tie-up of Halliburton and Baker Hughes would have created a newly-enlarged rival to Schlumberger, the biggest operator in the oil services industry.

Such companies help oil and gas operators drill wells and supply them with equipment and tools.

Backers of Halliburton’s planned acquisition said it would bolster the group’s capability in areas where it was relatively weak, such as production chemicals and pumps used to improve oil recovery from wells.

They also said it would help Halliburton compete in overseas markets. Halliburton had planned to cut costs aggressively to help justify a chunky takeover premium.

The cancellation of the deal would be a blow to the companies, which had previously said they were confident of securing regulatory clearance.

It would also be the latest downbeat news for Wall Street investment bankers. A deals drought at the start of the year hurt their fee income.

News that the two companies were preparing to terminate the transaction was reported earlier by Bloomberg.

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