Air Liquide Acquires Airgas

Air Liquide has completed its acquisition of Airgas Inc., one of the leading suppliers of industrial gases and associated products and services in the US. Globally, the combined business is expected to generate more than $22 billion in annual sales, employ approximately 68,000 people and serve well over three million customers and patients.

Pursuant to the sale, Airgas common stock has been delisted from the New York Stock Exchange and its shareholders will receive $143 in cash for each share. Airgas will operate as a subsidiary of Air Liquide within the company’s US operations and will go to market as Airgas, an Air Liquide company.

The transaction, according to Air Liquide, allows the company to not only expand its US operations but to also create efficiencies in its production and supply chain thanks to the complementary nature of the two businesses. The company foresees volume growth using Airgas’ footprint to accelerate the deployment of Air Liquide’s new offerings and technologies.

“We are very pleased to have successfully closed our acquisition of Airgas, which will contribute to our strategy of profitable growth over the long term,” said Benoît Potier, Air Liquide’s chairman and CEO. “There is strong industrial and market logic to this acquisition, which ideally positions Air Liquide for future growth. The two businesses are highly complementary, and the transaction extends our customer base through a unique, multi-channel distribution network and a nationwide presence in the US.”

Peter McCausland, founder and executive chairman of Airgas, retired upon closing of the transaction. “Today’s history-making transaction is the culmination of more than 30 years of growth and value that we have steadfastly delivered to Airgas shareholders—it is a proud moment,” he said. “Thank you to our customers, shareholders and associates for believing in the Airgas vision, just as I have, for all of these years.”

Pierre Dufour, senior executive vice president and board director of Air Liquide, has been appointed chairman of Airgas, while Pascal Vinet, a member of the Air Liquide Group’s Executive Committee, will be appointed CEO of Airgas after a brief, post-closing transition phase. During this transition phase, Michael Molinini will continue with his current responsibilities, serving as interim CEO of Airgas, retiring later this year.

Air Liquide will next pursue and finalize the sale of certain assets of the combined company in order to settle charges from the the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that the $13.4 billion merger would likely have harmed competition and led to higher prices in several US and regional markets. The contemplated divestitures will reduce the combined company’s annual sales by approximately $270 million, according to Air Liquide.

According to the FTC’s complaint, the acquisition would have been anticompetitive for bulk argon in the US; bulk nitrous oxide in the US and Canada; bulk liquid carbon dioxide in Indiana, Kentucky and surrounding areas, and for bulk oxygen and bulk nitrogen in several regions across the US.

Under the consent agreement, Air Liquide has four months to divest assets including 16 air separation units used to produce bulk oxygen, nitrogen and argon, twelve of which are owned by Air Liquide and four by Airgas. Two Air Liquide nitrous oxide plants, six Air Liquide facilities that produce liquid carbon dioxide and three Airgas welding gas stores must also be divested.