Rival takeover bidders put pressure on BOC

A bidding war is set to break out for industrial gases firm BOC after the company’s board rejected a joint takeover by rivals US-based Air Products and France’s Air Liquide. BOC – whose £6bn-£7bn market capitalisation is £2bn bigger than ICI – is Britain’s biggest chemicals firm, employing 11,000 people in the UK. It had […]

A bidding war is set to break out for industrial gases firm BOC after the company’s board rejected a joint takeover by rivals US-based Air Products and France’s Air Liquide.

BOC – whose £6bn-£7bn market capitalisation is £2bn bigger than ICI – is Britain’s biggest chemicals firm, employing 11,000 people in the UK. It had previously walked away from merger talks with Praxair of the US.

BOC’s rejection of the offer could lead to a hostile bid. If successful, analysts expect BOC to be broken up to avoid regulatory objections. A deal with Praxair is seen as a better fit, as the firm leads the North and South American markets and BOC is strong in the UK, Australia, Africa and Asia. A deal with Air Liquide alone is possible, and is believed to be BOC’s preference.

A restructuring programme under way at BOC aims to cut £120m costs within two years. Some 5,300 employees are being laid off.

{{Industrial gases: the world’s top players

Company Headquarters Employees Annual sales Gases mkt share %

Air Liquide France 28,000 £3.97bn 17BOC UK 35,000 £3.50bn 15Praxair US 25,000 £3.02bn 15Air Products US 17,000 £3.10bn 8}}