Compiled ByJill Jusko It's not quite a done deal, but the purchase of Bethlehem Steel Corp. assets by International Steel Group (ISG) moved one step closer with the signing of an asset purchase agreement by the two parties, Bethlehem Steel reported March 13. The agreement includes the sale of Bethlehem's steelmaking and finishing operations, its interest in joint ventures and surplus property. Bethlehem Steel, which is headquartered in Bethlehem, Pa., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2001. With the Bethlehem acquisition, Cleveland-based ISG would become the largest integrated steel producer in North America with more than 16 million tons of annual shipments, reports ISG's founder, WL Ross & Co. LLC, New York. WL Ross purchased the assets of the former LTV Steel Corp., which declared bankruptcy in 2000, and formed ISG last year. Bethlehem's and ISG's boards of directors have approved the agreement. It still must be approved by the bankruptcy court having jurisdiction over Bethlehem's case and obtain additional governmental approvals. A motional to approve the bidding procedures for the sale will be filed within the next few days by Bethlehem Steel with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, the steelmaker said. "Although we are unaware of any competing bidders for all of Bethlehem's assets, the auction process will invite competing bids and will ensure that the ISG offer is the best available alternative," said Robert S. Miller, Bethlehem's chairman and CEO. "With court approval, we anticipate the sale of Bethlehem's assets will be concluded in the second quarter of 2003."