July 5, 2018 / 6:45 AM / 9 months ago

Linde, Praxair eye merger close this year after European sale

TOKYO/BERLIN (Reuters) - German industrial gases company Linde (LING.DE) and peer Praxis are hoping to seal their merger this year, after agreeing to sell Praxair’s PX.N European gases business to Japanese rival Taiyo Nippon Sanso Corp (4091.T).

FILE PHOTO: The Praxair logo is seen during a news conference with Linde in Munich, Germany, June 2, 2017. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle

Linde and Praxair need to sell assets to get regulatory approval for their $83 billion (62.7 billion pounds) all-share merger of equals that will create a global leader in gas distribution, with revenues of almost $29 billion and 88,000 staff.

“We are taking a constructive approach to address regulatory concerns with the merger in the European Economic Area,” Praxair CEO Steve Angel said in a statement on Thursday.

Linde shares LIN1.DE rose 4.2 percent after the Taiyo Nippon Sanso deal was announced, and were among top gainers on the DAX index of leading German shares .GDAXI.

Taiyo Nippon Sanso will pay 5 billion euros ($5.9 billion) for the Praxair European assets, which generated annual sales of approximately 1.3 billion euros in 2017, in a move aimed at boosting its global competitiveness.

“With this acquisition, we are seizing a unique opportunity to enter the European market and establish a truly global footprint through the purchase of highly attractive assets in all the key geographies in the European Union,” Taiyo Nippon Sanso President CEO Yujiro Ichihara said.

Sources previously told Reuters that Taiyo Nippon Sanso would likely buy the European assets that the two groups were trying to unload to satisfy regulators. Private equity firm Carlyle Group LP (CG.O) was in the running to buy their U.S. assets worth about $3.3 billion, they said.

Linde said in a statement that more disposals were planned in a bid to complete the Praxair merger this year.

“Linde and Praxair are in discussions with the competent authorities and in negotiations with potential bidders with the objective of completing the business combination in the second half of 2018,” it said in a statement on Thursday.

A combined Linde and Praxair would have the size to overtake France’s Air Liquide SA (AIRP.PA) in the supply of gases such as oxygen and helium to industries worldwide.

Praxair said the assets to be sold include its industrial gases businesses in Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Britain, and include approximately 2,500 employees.

Taiyo Nippon Sanso said the deal depends on the planned Praxair-Linde merger going through.

It said it would pay for the acquisition with cash on hand and loans, and had no plans to conduct equity financing.

Credit Suisse Securities acted as financial advisors to Praxair and McDermott Will & Emery UK LLP as legal advisors. Mizuho Securities acted as primary financial advisors to Taiyo Nippon Sanso and Greenberg Traurig LLP as legal advisors.

Reporting by Chris Gallagher and Chang-Ran Kim; Additional reporting by Victoria Bryan in Berlin; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman, Christopher Cushing and Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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