Altos Hornos de Mexico SA, the steelmaker known as Ahmsa, is exiting the bankruptcy process in Mexico after 17 years of court protection.

A Mexican judge ordered the company’s suspension-of-payments proceedings to be lifted and approved a plan for creditors, effective immediately, the company said in a statement Monday.

The court-approved exit calls for Ahmsa to repay $1.7 billion over three years, the steelmaker said. Most creditors chose to receive company shares for almost half the debt with cash payments covering the rest, reducing the company’s liabilities to $400 million. Ahmsa filed for court protection in May 1999.

The company’s board unanimously approved the plan. Less debt will allow for more financial flexibility and strategic ventures to expand steel operations and strengthen product offerings in the auto, energy and specialized industry markets, Monclova, Mexico-based Ahmsa said.

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