NEW YORK — Adidas-Salomon AG said today it will buy Reebok International Ltd. for about $3.8 billion, or $3.1 billion euros, in a deal that is aimed at improving its position to challenge Nike Inc., the world’s biggest athletic company.

The companies have combined revenues of about $11.1 billion, compared with Nike’s $13.7 billion.

Under terms of the deal, Adidas is offering $59 for each share of Reebok, based in Canton, Mass., a premium of 34.2 percent on Tuesday’s closing price on the New York Stock Exchange.

The purchase gives Herzogenaurach, Germany-based Adidas, which has reported declining U.S. sales for the last two years, a stronger foothold in the American market as well as access to Reebok’s licenses to supply apparel to the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League. In addition, the acquisition is likely to give the combined company more negotiating leverage with retailers.

“Today’s announcement represents a major strategic milestone for our group,’’ Adidas-Salomon chairman and chief executive officer Herbert Hainer said in a statement. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to combine two of the most respected and well-known companies in the worldwide sporting goods industry.’’ Paul Fireman, Reebok’s founder, chairman and ceo, said in a statement: “Adidas is the perfect partner for Reebok. With Adidas, we are able to offer an enhanced portfolio of global brands that truly addresses the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s consumers.’’

In the battle for celebrities, Adidas has endorsers such as soccer superstar David Beckham and rapper Missy Elliot, while Reebok boasts basketball stars like Yao Ming and Allen Iverson.

The deal is subject to regulatory approval in the U.S. and Europe and by shareholders. The companies said the acquisition may close in the first half of 2006.

Reebok in the second quarter ended June 30 reported that earnings increased 70.2 percent to $37.1 million from $21.8 million in the same period last year. The results were propelled by increased operating margins and sales of performance footwear, including Reebok’s new Pump 2.0 technology. The firm said that it had started selling footwear at Target under its LogoAthletic brand.

— Melanie Kletter

For more, see tomorrow’s WWD

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