NEW YORK (Reuters) - German industrial gas producer Linde AG LING.DE said on Sunday it had agreed to buy Lincare Holdings Inc LNCR.O, a Florida-based provider of oxygen and respiratory therapy services to patients in the home, for $4.6 billion (2.93 billion pounds).
The deal is the latest sign of inroads that industrial gas suppliers are making in the homecare market, which is growing 6 to 9 percent annually, driven mainly by cost-cuts at hospital operators and an aging population.
Linde said in a statement it had signed a merger agreement with Lincare based on a cash offer of $41.50 per common share. Lincare shares ended trading at $34.02 on Friday.
Linde added it would fund the deal with available cash and a $4.5 billion acquisition loan, which will be refinanced by debt and equity issuances. It expects the deal to close in the third fiscal quarter of 2012.
In January, Linde bought the European homecare business of U.S. rival Air Products and Chemicals Inc for $750 million. That acquisition made Linde a strong No.2 in the homecare business after France’s Air Liquide SA (AIRP.PA).
Reporting by Greg Roumeliotis; Editing by Dale Hudson