(Bloomberg) -- Uruguay’s antitrust agency has blocked Minerva SA’s proposed acquisition of three meatpacking plants owned by Marfrig Global Foods SA in the South American country, newspapers El Pais and El Observador reported Friday, citing unnamed government sources.

Minerva had agreed to pay Marfrig about $1.5 billion for 16 meatpacking plants in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Chile in a deal they announced last August. Uruguay’s ranchers are deeply critical of the transaction as Minerva would have about 50% of the country’s annual slaughter capacity, giving it enormous leverage to negotiate cattle prices.

Read more: Uruguay Review of Minerva-Marfrig Deal Passes to Second Phase

Uruguay’s competition regulator referred questions to the Finance Ministry, where the press office said the antitrust agency hasn’t published its final decision yet. The companies said in separate statements they hadn’t received any information from the Uruguayan government about the transactions.

Minerva’s stock has slumped since the deal on concerns it’s overpaying for Marfrig’s slaughterhouses, while shares for Marfrig have gained as investors rewarded the company for its renewed focus on more profitable processed food. 

--With assistance from Gerson Freitas Jr. and Clarice Couto.

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