German Linde to expand in the US with possible deal to acquire Lincare

German gases group Linde AG (ETR:LIN) is racing to buy US Lincare Holdings Inc (NASDAQ:LNCR), a provider of oxygen and other respiratory therapy services, for some USD3.4bn (EUR2.7bn), in a move that would substantially expand its pharmaceutical and medical gases business, according to informed sources cited by the the Financial Times Alphaville blog.

Linde is offering at least USD40.00 a share for Lincare and leads the bidding race which also includes French Air Liquide (EPA:AI) and an unnamed private equity firm, the people said.

A deal would see the German group expand its presence in the US after widening its reach across the sector in Belgium, Germany, France, Portugal and Spain with the acquisition earlier this year of Air Products and Chemicals Inc’s (NYSE:APD) homecare business in Europe. The Air Products deal gave Linde the second position in the homecare sector after Air Liquide.

A potential acquisition of Lincare would boost Linde’s healthcare operations which provides higher margins than its main industrial gases business while improving its position in the high-growth sector.

With a capitalisation of slightly over USD20bn, Linde is seen capable of ensuring financing a potential deal for Lincare, the report said.

Lincare provides homecare services to customers suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It served over 800,000 customers in 48 US states and Canda through 1,108 operating centres as of 31 December 2011.