Linde calls in Brunswick for BOC acquisition offer

Brunswick is preparing a comms offensive for industrial gas group Linde, as it decides whether to improve a bid for FTSE rival BOC.

Brunswick Germany senior partner Thomas Knipp and Simon Holberton, a partner in the firm's London office, were drafted in last week after news broke of Linde's £7.6bn  offer.

At its annual general meeting on 27 January, BOC rejected Linde's unsolicited bid because it 'failed to take account of the growth prospects' of the company.

BOC chief executive Tony Isaac said the company's £300m investment in new projects in China would deliver about £30m in the first full year of operation. Expansion plans include building five new gas plants in China, three in the US, one in India and another in Mexico.

BOC said it was also sensitive to such approaches following an unsuccessful attempt six years ago to merge with  industrial gas producing rivals Air Products and Air Liquide.

'The unsolicited approach from Linde also contained regulatory hurdles as a precondition, which mean the company would inevitably have had to suffer a further period of uncertainty while these were examined,' BOC told its shareholders last week.

Linde's £15 per share offer was at a 30 per cent premium to BOC's pre-offer share price. But the premiums of recent deals, such as Saint Gobain's acquisition of plasterboard company BPB, suggest that Linde might have to offer as high as £17 per share to convince BOC's board.

Air Liquide, which has retained Financial Dynamics for investor relations and Publicis Consultants for press relations, is said to be preparing a counter-offer. Publicis said it 'had no information' on the reports. Air Liquide did not return calls.

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