Germany’s Messer Group watching for opportunities to acquire Praxair-Linde divestitures

6 July 2017. By Curtis Eichelberger.

Messer Group says it is keeping a careful eye on antitrust reviews of the Praxair-Linde merger in the US and abroad in hopes of picking up some good gas assets through divestiture.

"The merger between Linde and Praxair will lead to divestments in many regions and countries for antitrust reasons," Messer said in a statement to MLex. "The Messer Group will carefully examine the opportunities resulting therefrom within the scope of its growth strategy and its financial capabilities for its existing markets in Europe, China and Vietnam, as well as industrial gas markets outside this territory."

Messer Group owned gas assets in the US until 2004, when it sold its US, German and Great Britain businesses to the French Air Liquide Group. Messer's absence from the US market potentially makes it attractive as an acquirer for divested assets.

The merger is likely to require significant divestitures in the bulk gas business in the US, according to lawyers with knowledge of the industry. Bulk gas is usually liquefied and driven to customers within a 100- to 250-mile radius. Therefore, antitrust agencies usually define the relevant market for bulk gas as regional rather than national.

Messer would be able to enter any local market with no competitive concerns or overlap issues and with the expertise to compete immediately, lawyers say.

The Messer Group had 5,485 employees and 1.15 billion euros in net sales in 2016, according to the company's web site. Sales were divided fairly evenly between Asia, Eastern and Central Europe, and Western Europe, with some business also done in Peru.

Messer Group is looking to grow and the Praxair-Linde merger may be an opportunity for the company to enter a fairly consolidated US market where five companies dominate: Air Liquide, Praxair, Linde, Air Products and Matheson.

"The Messer Group is growing moderately in its European affiliates. On the other hand, the Asian markets offer the privately-run industrial gas specialist many opportunities to increase sales. Particularly strong growth is generated by Messer in China and Vietnam. An office was also opened in Singapore to invest in the expanding markets of the other ASEAN countries in the long term," the company said in a statement.

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