US sets high hurdles for Linde-Praxair mega-merger

In this file photo CEO of US company Praxair, Steve Angel (left), and CEO of German company Linde, Aldo Belloni, react after a news conference in Munich, southern Germany. US regulators on October 22, 2018 gave the go-ahead for US Praxair Inc and German Linde AG to create the world’s largest industrial gas supplier, but will require them to divest nine business units. — AFP photo

FRANKFURT AM MAIN: Linde and Praxair executives celebrated a green light under strict conditions from Washington for their planned mega-merger, but even as the German group’s climbed, workers warned of hard times ahead.

The US Federal Trade Commission said the US$80 billion merger, creating the world’s largest industrial gases supplier, could go ahead if the two groups sell off nine American business units.

Linde will sell activities including its bulk liquid oxygen, nitrogen, and argon business, carbon dioxide facilities and a liquid hydrogen plant to Germany’s Messer Group.

Meanwhile New Jersey-based Matheson Tri-Gas will buy five hydrogen-carbon monoxide facilities and a hydrogen pipeline.

“Praxair and Linde have agreed to divest the required facilities within four months of signing the Agreement Containing Consent Orders,” the FTC said.

Until then, “Linde and Praxair are prohibited from integrating their operations anywhere in the world,” it added.

FTC officials worked with antitrust agencies in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, , Colombia, the European Union, Korea, and Mexico to issue their approval, just two days before a deadline under German law that could have seen the deal fall through.

Major regulators elsewhere had already given the all-share merger the go-ahead.

Munich-based Linde said in a statement that the sell-offs will be completed by 29, adding that Japan’s Taiyo Nippon Sanso had confirmed it will buy most of Praxair’s European businesses under concessions required by Brussels.

“The final closing conditions for the merger of equals between Linde and Praxair were satisfied,” the German firm said, outling plans to list the combined Linde PLC on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange on October 29 and in New York on October 31.

A Linde spokesman told AFP that the competition concessions needed to get the deal over the line overstepped the original upper limit the two companies had set.

They had agreed not to sell off activities with more than US$3.7 billion in annual revenues.

But executives are determined to press ahead despite the larger divestments, which will shrink the combined firm’s yearly sales to “approximately US$27 billion” according to Linde’s statement, rather than the US$30 billion first targeted.

Staff representatives at Linde blasted the final form of the deal.

“The sell-offs will increase the pressure for efficiency and synergies and thereby pressure on the employees. It’s impossible to put a number on how many jobs will be endangered,” powerful union IG Metall said in a statement.

In Frankfurt, Linde shares gained 3.4 per cent to trade at 218.40 euros (US$250.50) around 5:15 pm (1515 GMT), against a DAX index of leading German shares down slightly on the day. — AFP

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Source: Borneo Post Online

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