MEGA MERGER

Sources: Linde-Praxair Deal Advances

Aktionstag Linde
Linde's head office in Munich, southern Germany. Picture source: DPA

The proposed €60-billion merger between Linde and Praxair is proceeding according to plan after the deal was narrowly approved by Linde’s supervisory board last month, sources told Handelsblatt.

“No major hurdles have emerged,” an insider told Handelsblatt on condition of anonymity. The likelihood of implementation has increased significantly, the source said.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Germany’s financial supervisor, Bafin, are expected to approve the merger early August and then publish the relevant documents, industry sources told Handelsblatt.

Both companies understand they will have to sell parts of their business, particularly in the US market where there is more overlap, in order to win the approval of antitrust authorities. Linde and Praxair’s assets could attract the interest of both private equity and strategic investors. “Linde and Praxair do not want to sell problem units, but instead highly profitable investments,” a source in the industry told Handelsblatt.

 

Swiss-listed industrial firm OC Oerlikon, partially owned by Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, is looking at which assets the Linde-Praxair combination could sell, sources told Handelsblatt. The Americans own a valuable business specialized in surface technologies and 3D printing.

Linde and Praxair, which have combined revenues of €27 billion, built a failsafe into the merger agreement they signed in June: If they have to sell assets which jointly generate more than €3.7 billion in revenue to win antitrust approval, they can reconsider the deal. Industry sources said they did not expect this hurdle to be reached.

 

03 p22 Linde and Praxair-01

The merger, if successful, would create the largest industrial gas company in the world, producing oxygen, nitrogen, acetylene, carbon monoxide or argon. They are used in everything from manufacturing to medicine. Linde, for example, makes hydrogen for fuel cells that power emission-free cars, or helium that is used to cool superconducting magnets like those used in the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. Linde not only “manufactures” these gases by separating them in its plants, it also sells the equipment for such processes to other firms — in the welding industry, for example.

Praxair shareholders still have to approve the deal with a simple majority. A special shareholders meeting has been called, but the date has not yet been published. Industry sources say it will likely be held in July.

Final approval by Linde could prove more complicated. At least 75 percent of Linde shareholders have to exchange their shares for holdings in the new company. Linde is expected to reach this threshold.

“If large investors had a problem with the deal it would be known,” an industry source told Handelsblatt. Linde’s share price has risen significantly since April, the source said, an indication that there is broad support for the merger. It’s still unclear how small shareholders, who are often passive, will act. If an investor does not offer its Linde shares, the stock will remain listed even once the merger is completed.

 

Axel Höpner is head of the Handelsblatt office in Munich, focusing on the state of Bavaria’s companies, including Linde, Allianz and Siemens. Thomas Jahn is Handelsblatt’s New York bureau chief. Hans-Jürgen Jakobs, a senior editor with Handelsblatt based in Munich, contributed to this article. To contact the authors: hoepner@handelsblatt.com and jahn@handelsblatt.com

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