(Reuters) - Linde AG LING.DE is acquiring the European homecare business of U.S. rival Air Products and Products Inc (APD.N) in a $750 million deal that will thrust the German industrial gases maker into No.2 position in the homecare respiratory market.
The business being bought — which generated sales of 210 million euros ($267 million) in the year through September 2011 — provides care for patients who suffer chronic ailments requiring oxygen, ventilation or nebulisation therapy at home.
An industry observer who declined to be named said the acquisition — one of Linde’s biggest since it bought UK-based BOC for 12 billion euros ($15.3 billion) five years ago — would make Linde a strong No. 2 in the homecare business after French group Air Liquide SA (AIRP.PA).
Linde, already the world’s second-biggest supplier of medical gases and industrial gases, declined to comment on its market share, but said its healthcare operations were more profitable than industrial gases.
Air Products said it was selling the business because it was no longer a natural fit with its core gases business.
Linde counts the steel and chemical sectors as its main customers but also supplies gases used to produce solar cells, make LCD flat screens and lift the giant helium character balloons of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Prior to the BOC buy it bought Swedish industrial gas supplier Aga in 2000.
Linde’s healthcare business posted total sales of 1.1 billion euros in 2010, with around 280 million generated in the homecare segment.
The group says its operating profit margin in healthcare is wider than in industrial gases, where it achieved a margin of 27.3 percent in the first nine months of 2011, though it would not give a figure for healthcare profitability.
Linde was scheduled to release 2011 results in March.
($1 = 0.7865 euro)
Reporting by Swetha Gopinath in Bangalore and Marilyn Gerlach in Frankfurt; Editing by Don Sebastian and David Holmes