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Pulte, Centex boards OK $3.1 billion merger

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Pulte Homes Inc. and Centex Corp. say a planned $3.1 billion merger will make the combined companies the nation's largest home builder with the strongest cash position in the industry.The merger -- already approved by both companies' boards of directors -- will create a single company with $3.4 billion in cash and $1.8 billion in net debt. The companies together closed 39,000 sales in 2008, with revenue of $11.6 billion.Fitch Ratings affirmed Pulte's debt ratings, and said it was prepared to raise ratings on Centex's unsecured debt because the company will benefit from the merger.The combined company -- to be known as Pulte, and headquartered in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. -- will "have a strong liquidity position, a more diversified product line, an expanded market presence in top markets, and the potential for significant cost savings from operating efficiencies," Fitch analysts said. The board of directors of Pulte will be expanded to include four current members from the Cent...