BOC puts final touches to German deal

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The Independent Online

BOC was last night set to fall into foreign hands as executives at the industrial gases group put the finishing touches to an £8bn takeover by German rival Linde. A bid of more than £16 per share is expected to be announced this week, possibly as early as today alongside annual results from Linde.

The tie-up will create the world's biggest industrial gases company and is the latest foreign takeover of a major UK company. Last week Japan's Nippon Sheet Glass secured the purchase of glassmaker Pilkington while a court also approved the acquisition of the ports operator P&O by Dubai Ports World. The airports operator BAA is expected to received a £9bn-plus bid from the Spanish construction group Ferrovial before the end of the month.

Tony Isaac, BOC's chief executive, stands to make more than £24m from the sale of the company. The bulk of this will come from his share options package although he does own 430,000 ordinary shares awarded to him under a long-term incentive plan.

The UK group, formerly called the British Oxygen Company, rejected Linde's original £15 per share offer on the grounds that it undervalued the company. There were concerns on the BOC side that the deal could face major opposition from anti-trust authorities. Linde is believed to have allayed these fears by arguing that there is little geographical overlap between the two companies. The German player has also managed to assure BOC had it has sufficient capital in place to finance a cash offer and that it will take care of BOC's £450m pension fund deficit.

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