Linde and Praxair Merger all Clear

23.10.2018 -

With approval received from the US Federal Trade Commission on Oct. 22 – two days before the deal would have been Dead on Arrival – nothing now stands in the way of a successful merger of German and US industrial gases giants Linde and Praxair.

The European Commission gave the green light in August, when it approved the divestment of Praxair’s European gas business as well as the US company’s stake in an Italian joint venture, SIAD, along with several helium sourcing contracts.

The merger with an estimated value of $46 billion will give rise to the world’s largest industrial gas supplier – passing France’s Air Liquide. The combined company with 80,000 employees and pro forma annual sales of $27 billion will be headquartered in Ireland and trade under the name Linde, while being managed from Praxair’s US headquarters in Danbury, Connecticut.

Current Praxair chief Steve Angel will run the new Linde as CEO, and Linde’s current chairman, Wolfgang Reitzle – who reportedly instigated the fusion plan over considerable opposition from the company’s employees, shareholders and some of its top managers – will be chairman.

In a statement, Reitzle called the merger “a compelling and transformative combination and an unparalleled opportunity.”

Taking the final hurdle to US approval was contingent on the two companies selling additional assets to resolve competition concerns, which led Linde to slightly lower the outlook for cost savings from $1.2 billion initially to $1.1-$1.2 billion. This is projected to be achieved over approximately three years.

As partially reported, newest additions to the disposal basket include virtually all of Linde’s US bulk liquid oxygen, nitrogen and argon business well as certain carbon monoxide, hydrogen and steam methane reforming businesses.

Linde facilities in Clear Lake, Texas, are to be sold to Celanese, and a La Porte, Texas, site is to go to LyondellBasell. Five of Linde ‘s US plants outside the Gulf Coast are also to be divested, along with a pipeline on the Gulf Coast. The latter will  go to Matheson Tri-Gas.

Earlier, Linde had agreed to sell assets worth $3.3 billion to a consortium of German industrial gases supplier Messer Group and private equity investor CVC Capital Partners. Praxair’s sale of its entire European operation for €5 billion ($5.7 billion) to Japanese rival Taiyo Nippon Sanso was finally cleared by the EU almost simultaneously with the US approval of the entire merger plan.

Linde is obliged to complete the divestments by 29 January 2019, and the two gases giants will continue to operate separately until all divestments are completed. Settlement of the exchange offer of Linde plc to the Linde shareholders is due to take place by Oct. 31. Shares of the new company will be listed on the Frankfurt and New York stock exchanges.

Immediately following the FTC’s announcement, Praxair shares rose 3.5% in New York, with the Linde paper pushing forward 7.5% in Frankfurt, stock market reports said.