BOC buys German gas network

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

BOC, the industrial gases group, is expanding its activities in Germany with the purchase of a hydrogen gas distribution and pipeline network for an estimated price of between pounds 50m and pounds 75m cash.

The business is being acquired from Veba, the German chemicals group, and supplies customers, mainly in the oil and petrochemicals industries, through a 210km pipeline in the Rhine-Ruhr region.

BOC said the move would bring about 20 large customers under its wings. Its existing activities in the region are small.

'This acquisition is a key step in the expansion of BOC's industrial gases business in Continental Europe,' a spokesman said. 'It establishes BOC as a major supplier in the industrial heartland of Germany and confirms our intention to be fully represented throughout the Continent.'

BOC said the business would make a positive contribution to its earnings within a year. Despite a worsening economic climate in Germany, demand for hydrogen has remained robust because of its increasing use in refining heavy crude oil residues.

'Opportunities to make an acquisition like this are few and far between, so we have to take them whenever they occur. The long-term prospects of the business are good,' BOC said.

The shares fell 2p to 657p.