The Linde Group has signed a merger agreement with Lincare Holdings Inc., the leading US-based homecare health company based in Florida.

The proposed deal has a planned acquisition value of around $4.6 billion.

It’s a move that will potentially shift the dynamics in the US market, and comes just two months after Linde Healthcare completed the acquisition of Air Products’ Continental-European homecare business, at an enterprise value of €590 million.

Linde intends to acquire all outstanding shares of Lincare Holdings Inc. by submitting a cash offer to the company’s shareholders of $41.50 per common share, followed by a merger.

Prof. Dr Wolfgang Reitzle, CEO of Linde AG, explained in a statement, “This strategic acquisition enables us to take the next big step in this stable, sustainable and profitable business field.”

“Against the background of demographic changes, the healthcare industry is a megatrend in which we will be able to participate more strongly in a new set-up. Together with Lincare, we will become the global leading healthcare provider within the gases industry and further internationalize our business.”

“Lincare,” he added, “as the industry leader in the US, provides us an ideal platform to roll out our innovative products − which are already successful, particularly in Europe − into the US, the largest region for healthcare revenues globally.”

Closing of the offer is expected for the third quarter of fiscal year 2012, with completion of the offer and merger subject to the receipt of regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions.