The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has cleared the proposed acquisition by Linde of the BOC Group.

The clearance is subject to certain divestitures to address FTC concerns relating to atmospheric gases and wholesale bulk liquid helium. As a condition to FTC clearance, Linde has agreed to divest eight air separation units in the United States.

The company has also agreed to divest three liquid helium purchase agreements with suppliers in the United States, Russia and Poland as well as associated assets. These divestitures correspond to a sales volume of approximately €180m in the year ended 31 December 2005.

"We are pleased to confirm that each of the pre-conditions to the making of the offer has now been satisfied," said Prof. Wolfgang Reitzle, president and CEO of Linde AG. "This is a milestone on our way towards the merger with BOC. We will swiftly take the next steps to implement the transaction and look forward to our joint integration process with BOC."

The offer to the BOC shareholders will shortly be launched, by means of the posting of the scheme document. The consent of the High Court to the despatch of the scheme document has been obtained. Completion of the offer is expected in September 2006.