Airgas has announced a definitive agreement to acquire the US bulk gas business that Linde is required to divest after its acquisition of The BOC Group.

This divestiture will comply with one of the conditions imposed by the US antitrust authority, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC,) when it gave its approval for the acquisition, a transaction which was completed on 5 September 2006.

Airgas has agreed to acquire eight air separation units (ASUs) and related bulk gas business for $495m in cash. The bulk business, which has approximately 300 employees, generated $154m in revenues and EBITDA of $55m in the year ended 31 December 2005. Revenues for the nine month period ended 30 September 2006 increased approximately 10 per cent to $126m. The companies expect to close the bulk business acquisition subject to regulatory review and customary closing conditions.

Airgas will manage the acquired ASUs as part of a new business unit, Airgas Merchant Gases, which will centrally manage production, sourcing, applications support and logistics, working closely with bulk gas sales specialists within the Airgas regional companies. Airgas Merchant Gases will eventually manage existing Airgas ASUs and the planned one in Carrollton, KY.

The acquired bulk business will include sales of nitrogen, oxygen, and argon produced at the plants, as well as helium, hydrogen and carbon dioxide bulk sales to the plants' customers. The acquisition will include delivery vehicles, bulk tanks, and related infrastructure, as well as sales, operations, and engineering staff who support the business.

The company expects the acquisition will be accretive to EPS in the first 12 months.