Airgas has announced a definitive agreement with its National Welders joint venture partners to turn the venture into a wholly owned subsidiary of Airgas and exchange approximately 2.47 million shares of the company's common stock for all preferred shares.

Airgas has owned 100 percent of the joint venture's common stock since 1996, with a 50 percent voting interest and the Turner Family and other owners of National Welders holding the balance of the voting interest.

As a result of the transaction, the industrial, medical and speciality gases company will recognise a one-time after-tax charge of around $3m in its quarter ending 30th September 2007.

Chairman and chief executive officer of Airgas, Peter McCausland said, $quot;I am very pleased to welcome National Welders associates to Airgas, even though I feel they have been a part of our family since 1996. I want to thank National Welders associates for all the contributions they have made in the past decade and I am sure they will continue to contribute to our success going forward.$quot;

As a wholly owned subsidiary of Airgas, Andy Cichocki, president and chief executive officer of National Welders, will report directly to Mike Molinini, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Airgas, Inc. In other respects, National Welders will continue to operate with regional autonomy, similarly to the way in which other regional Airgas companies do.