FRANKFURT, June 27 German industrial gas
producer Linde AG is the leading bidder for Lincare
Holdings Inc and could offer at least $3.4 billion for
the U.S. oxygen provider, the Financial Times Alphaville blog
reported on Wednesday, citing sources.
France's Air Liquide SA and an unnamed private
equity bidder may also be in the running for Lincare, according
to the report. The blog named Rothschild and Lazard as advisers
working on the deal.
Air Liquide and Linde declined comment to Reuters.
In January Linde bought the European homecare business of
U.S. rival Air Products and Chemicals Inc for $750 million. The
business mostly supplies oxygen and other treatments to patients
in their homes. That acquisition made Linde a strong No.2 in the
homecare business after Air Liquide.
After the Alphaville story, Lincare's shares rose as much as
31 percent. There was also a flurry of call option trading on
"Investors took positions in July and August call options on
hopes that the stock would see additional gains if the buyout
speculation is true," said Frederic Ruffy, options strategist at
Option volume on Lincare was running 13.5 times the average
daily levels with 20,000 calls and 3,371 puts traded thus far on
Wednesday afternoon, according to options analytics firm Trade
Investors often turn to equity calls, or contracts that give
them the right to buy the company's shares at a fixed price by a
certain date, to speculate on share price appreciation.
Lincare was not immediately available for comment.
Shares of Lincare were trading up 20 percent at $30.27 on