Linde To Buy U.S. Firm Lincare For $4.6 Billion

The German-based company that specializes in industrial and medical gases said it is looking to get a bigger slice of the growing health care market.

BERLIN (AP) — Linde AG, a German-based company that specializes in industrial and medical gases including oxygen, said Monday it is looking to get a bigger slice of the growing health care market from its purchase of U.S. home care company Lincare Holdings Inc.

In a statement late Sunday, Linde said it was buying Lincare in an agreed cash deal worth $4.6 billion. Linde will make a tender offer of $41.50 per share in cash for all outstanding stock of Lincare, which is based in Clearwater, Florida.

Linde's CEO Wolfgang Reitzle said the deal would double sales for the company's North American gases division.

"Health care is one of our three growth pillars," he told journalists on a conference call Monday. He called the health business "a global megatrend" due to aging populations and new treatments.

Lincare provides respiratory therapy to patients in the home in 48 U.S. states and in Canada through 1,091 local centers and has 11,000 employees, according to its website. Its services include oxygen therapy, chemotherapy, managing feeding tubes, pain management, treatment of sleep apnea, and home ventilators.

It reported net revenues of $1.85 billion last year, a 10.7 percent increase over the year before. The company has told investors it sees revenues being driven by an aging population, advances in lung medicine along with new drugs, and cost pressures that reward more efficient service providers. Just under half its revenues come from Medicare, the U.S. government insurance program for people over 65, and about a third from private insurance.

Linde, headquartered in Munich, is a major maker of gases used for medical purposes such as oxygen therapy, aerosol therapy and anesthesia. It has 50,500 employees in over 100 countries and reported sales of €13.78 billion last year.

Lincare CEO John P. Byrnes said its board believed the planned merger "will afford the company benefits it would not be able to realize on its own."

Linde said it would fund the deal through an acquisition loan of $4.5 billion from Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank and through available cash. The loan would be refinanced by issuing new debt and shares, with a €1.5 billion cap on new share issues.

The two companies said they expect the deal to close in the third quarter.

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