Linde shares drop as Praxair merger hits US anti-trust hurdle

Companies are running against a October 24th deadline to complete the deal

Shares in Linde plunged more than 8 per cent on Monday after the industrial gases group's planned $87 billion (€75.2bn) merger with Praxair was put in doubt by demands from US anti-trust regulators.

The US Federal Trade Commission is asking for more assets to be sold than previously anticipated, and the watchdog also wants prospective buyers to meet certain other requirements, the German industrial gases group said in a statement published just after midnight on Sunday.

“Linde and Praxair are analysing these expectations to assess their scope and to evaluate how they could be implemented to achieve a timely clearance of the business combination,” it said.

The planned combination in an all-shares merger, agreed in principle in December 2016, would create a global leader in gas distribution ahead of France's Air Liquide.


The companies agreed at the time that if regulators demanded the disposal of businesses with more than $3.7 billion (€3.2bn) in sales or $1.1 billion in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (ebitda), either party could withdraw without penalty.

Based on its discussions with the FTC and other anti-trust regulators, it said there was now a higher probability that the two companies would need to sell assets exceeding the agreed threshold.

The two companies are now evaluating how the regulators’ expectations could be fulfilled in a mutually acceptable manner to achieve a timely clearance, it said, adding they remained in a constructive dialogue with the regulators and with each other.

Market rules

The companies are running against a October 24th deadline to complete the deal, dictated by German financial market rules.

Markus Mayer, analyst at Baader Helvea, said more asset sales would reduce the benefits of the merger, and also said a closing before the October 24th had become less likely.

The shares were down 8.3 per cent at €192.70 in early morning trading.

Laurence Alexander, an analyst at brokerage Jefferies, said the merger parties would now only be able to get a relatively low price for additional divestments, but put the probability of the deal closing at more than 85 per cent.

Reuters reported last month that the European Commission was set to give its blessing to the tie-up after an in-depth anti-trust review and following the agreed sale of Praxair's European gases business to Japanese rival Taiyo Nippon Sanso.

In addition, Linde has agreed to sell North and South American assets to a consortium of German gases firm Messer and buyout group CVC in a deal that will raise around $3.3 billion (€2.8bn).

– Reuters