Europe's industrial gas sector consolidates

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Air liquide, Industrial gas

Gas giant Air Liquide's €2.7 billion acquisition of Messer
Griesheim's operations in Germany, the United Kingdom and the
United States has just been completed. The acquisition alters the
balance of power in Europe's industrial gas market, a market that
has played an increasingly significant role in food production in
recent years, writes Anthony Fletcher.

Prior to the acquisition, Messer​ and Linde​ dominated the German market, with Air Liquide​ a distant third. The acquisition will therefore enormously boost Air Liquide's position in Germany, with the potential to generate sales of almost €1 billion.

"Through this acquisition, the Group's new position in Germany and in Europe will enable us to further develop all our business lines and sectors of expertise,"​ said Benoît Potier, chairman of Air Liquide's management board.

"I am fully aware of the impact of this decision on the teams involved in the divestitures in Germany. I will see to it that the anticipated divestitures take place in a coherent framework that is consistent with the group's principles and ensures the continuity of these activities.

"We can now turn our attention to our organizational plans in Germany and continue discussions to obtain FTC approval for the US portion of the proposed acquisition. I remain confident in our ability to conclude this transaction successfully by mid-year."

In addition, Messer's holding company Messer Industrie has completed the acquisition of the shares in Messer Griesheim owned by the former co-shareholders Allianz Capital Partners and private equity funds managed by Goldman Sachs. In connection with the transaction, Messer has completed a €400 million refinancing.

Stefan Messer, a member of the Messer Griesheim management board, said that the closing of the transaction represents an important milestone for the new Messer group in its strategy to focus on growth markets in Eastern Europe and China.

The industrial gas business is confident of further growth in the food sector, with new opportunities being identified.

"The transportation of food revolves around gas,"​ said Hans-Dieter Ziegler, food marketing manager for industrial gases group Messer. "Since the introduction of HACCP regulations, many products have to be chilled down during transportation, and this involves the use of gases and equipment. Temperature is now a big issue within the food industry."

Chilling ambient food could be the next gap in the market. Ambient food is shelf-stable produce that usually does not require refrigeration or chilling. Europe, of course, has some of the most stringent food regulations in the world, and some believe the down-chilling of some ambient food during transport is an inevitability.

Related topics: Ingredients

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