With the launch of the fantastic new gasworld website, I’m left reflecting on some of the great stories to have broken on its previous incarnation.

Of course, you can still access a very recent archive of stories on this new site, and this will be gradually increasing, but the launch of a new era for gasworld gives us an opportunity to ‘celebrate’ some of the bigger deals from almost a decade of industry coverage.

From 2004 to late 2011 the gasworld website covered over 6000 stories, from breaking news to hot potatoes, insightful features and profiles to exclusive interviews.

There was also a noticeable evolution in agenda, with a growing focus on the green policies of the future and the role that the gases industry has to play in a transposed energy landscape. This can only continue in the future, so expect to see more and more of that on this new platform.

Something that we don’t see all that often is major M&A activity. M&A (mergers and acquisitions) is of course generally accepted to be part of any industry or business sector, and we see our fair share of M&A within the industrial gases industry. Rarely do we see a major shuffling of the pack though, the kind of coming together that makes everyone sit up and take notice.

Or so I thought. Two prime examples spring to mind that caused ripples throughout the previous incarnation of gasworld.com, one an example of successful M&A activity and another that wasn’t so successful.

Fervour

When The Linde Group swiftly concluded an £8bn deal to acquire the British-based BOC Group in 2006/7, there was considerable excitement in gasworld’s coverage of the transaction. This was a deal that would really shuffle the pack; via this acquisition, The Linde Group would become the world leader in the global industrial gases business.

It was a piece of business that came just before my time with gasworld, but the remnants of stimulation would linger long into my formative days with the company. In fact, the process of integration and chain of events that would follow on a regional level have formed the basis for many a news story or interview since then. Exclusive interviews with Ceylon Oxygen (2011), Linde Gas Singapore (2010), The new Linde Group (2008) and Afrox (2008) come to mind.

And, speaking purely from a personal perspective, it now seems incomprehensible to think of Linde and BOC as two separate entities.

Just a few years later and we would be party to another major example of M&A activity, that less than successful case study and in many respects, the one that got away. Who in our industry could forget the seemingly doomed attempt of Air Products to acquire its fellow Tier One player Airgas?

It was a proposition that shocked many, not least myself, when the news broke on 5th February 2010. I can remember the fervour and febrile here in the gasworld office when the story broke; it was like no other story I had personally known at the company.

And our website provided the perfect platform to stay up-to-date with all aspects of the story, during what would prove to be an almost tense 12 months of developments, until the proposition fell apart in February 2011. In that timeline, we gave you exclusive views and perspectives around the proposition, as well as an exploration of the concept of M&A and so-called ‘poison pills’.

At the forefront

Something we’ve certainly seen in the past half-decade and beyond is the development of the ‘hydrogen economy’ concept and the huge pool of efforts to take this from dream to reality.

Coverage of the hydrogen economy and a whole plethora of pledges, schemes and technologies is ongoing and again, I can’t imagine a gasworld website without it.

However big or small the steps, we’ve kept you at the forefront of the drive to realise this potential, from announcements of government support and/or private funding, to technology joint ventures and a raft of vehicle technologies. I couldn’t even begin to list all of the news items and exclusive interviews we’ve covered in this area.

Lest we also forget the repertoire of events coverage that gasworld has become so synonymous with as the focal point for global industrial gas news, views and information.

From Moscow to Manchester, Kuala Lumpur to Cape Town, Santiago to Swindon and all manner of locations in between, we’ve reported not just from our own successful series of global conferences, but also from the many annual industry events and seminars that we’ve attended through the years. In fact, our conference in Dubai next week will provide a baptism of reportage for this new website.

The future?

Who knows what stories we’ll be breaking via this new platform…Who in summer 2008, for example, could have seen the impending global crisis that unfolded?

The economic/financial meltdown has been inescapable, it’s affected us all on some level whether personally, professionally or both. It’s been our task to keep you at the forefront of this and how it impacts upon the gas and equipment business; one might say it’s shaped many of the things we’ve covered in the past few years.

And we’re still talking about it, in one form or another, today. As I write this, there are worrying cracks – chasms even – in the Eurozone that threaten to destabilize the recovery across many other global markets.

We can only hope that some of the first major stories we’ll be charting here on this brilliant new website is not an all too familiar situation rearing its head again.

The gasworld website has presided over some of the most interesting and engaging milestones to hit the global industrial gases business in the last decade; I’ve recalled merely a select few that are fresh in the memory. As we embark upon a new year and an exciting new platform to keep you at the forefront, let’s look forward to even more of these in the future.

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