AIR LIQUIDE has completed its third acquisition in 18 months by acquiring Farmec, an Italian market leader in antisepsis.

This acquisition follows that of Unident (Switzerland) and Arcana (Austria), two companies operating in the dental care and hospital disinfection sectors respectively.

Thanks to these acquisitions, Air Liquide consolidates its European leadership in medical hygiene (achieving sales of €223 million in 2005) and strengthens its organic growth in the healthcare sector.

Jean-Marc de Royere, member of the executive committee, said: \\$quot;This latest acquisition in Europe complements the group\\$quot;s healthcare expertise well. Air Liquide\\$quot;s healthcare business is growing steadily in response to strong demand for quality services. We give priority to internal growth from our European base, but we may also seize acquisition opportunities when they bring us world class know-how.\\$quot;

In 2005, Air Liquide healthcare activities turnover increased by 7.7 per cent to €1.395bn. The group\\$quot;s healthcare division is represented in homecare services, medical gases and hospital hygiene, as well as in medical equipment (respiratory) and hospital services (sterilization).

Cutting-edge solutions for disinfection and antisepsis are called for in dealing with hospital-acquired nosocomial infections, new operative techniques and increased resistance to antibiotics. Only high value-added products, such as hydroalcoholic hand scrubs or high performance endoscopy disinfectants, can make a difference to patient and health carer protection while reducing hospital treatment costs. Air Liquide\\$quot;s hygiene business experienced double-figure growth in 2005.