Linde AG reached final agreement for its $35 billion combination with Praxair Inc. to create the world’s largest supplier of industrial gases, ending months of suspense about whether the deal would go through amid opposition from German employees.
Linde signed the deal with Praxair following approval from its supervisory board, the Munich-based company said on June 1. Linde Chairman Wolfgang Reitzle did not need to use his double vote to push the deal through, according to people familiar with the situation who asked not to be identified because the deliberations are private.
German unions, against the tie-up on fears of job losses, and ministers had urged Linde not to push the deal through without workers’ support. Half of the Linde board is made up of representatives of employees so in the event of a split, Reitzle could have cast a deciding vote, a move that would have gone against a tradition of cooperation in Germany between employees and management.
The combination, described by the companies as a merger of equals, was brought back from the ashes last December after being torpedoed three months earlier amid opposition from Linde employees.
Talks were rekindled after the departure of top executives and pledges by the German company to cut costs because it was “way behind” competitors. Linde and Praxair agreed to keep some operations in Munich and guaranteed no forced layoffs of workers in Germany until 2022.
The combined entity will bear the Linde name and its stock will be listed in New York and Frankfurt. Praxair CEO Steve Angel and Reitzle will keep the same titles while the new company will have operations in Munich and Danbury, Conn., where Praxair is based. Its holding company will be in Dublin, Ireland.
Shares of Praxair will be converted one for one into stock in a new company that will begin an offer to buy Linde, the companies have said. It will bring together a German company known for its technology, and an American rival held up as the epitome of efficiency.
The transaction will face scrutiny from antitrust regulators. It comes amid industry consolidation after France’s Air Liquide SA completed its $13 billion acquisition of Airgas Inc. last year to create what is now the biggest industrial-gas supplier.
By Aaron Kirchfeld, Ed Hammond and Oliver Sachgau