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CORRECTED-(OFFICIAL)-Financial regulator investigates timing of Linde announcements

(Der Spiegel corrects to say Reitzle bought Linde shares, not Praxair shares, paragraph 4)

FRANKFURT, Sept 16 Germany's financial markets regulator BaFin on Friday said it had launched a routine investigation into whether industrial gases supplier Linde held back information about the departure of top executives for too long.

Linde on Tuesday announced the immediate departure of finance chief Georg Denoke and that Chief Executive Wolfgang Buechele will not extend his contract beyond April 2017, after ending talks about a merger with rival Praxair a day earlier.

Linde's non-executive Chairman Wolfgang Reitzle was cited as commenting on Praxair and the management changes in the Wednesday edition of German daily Handelsblatt in an interview that the newspaper said was conducted immediately after the supervisory board meeting where the departures were discussed.

German monthly Der Spiegel reported that BaFin was also looking into the purchase of Linde shares by Reitzle before the initial merger plans had been announced, without specifying its source.

A BaFin spokesman said the watchdog was routinely investigating whether there were suspicious purchases of shares in connection with the aborted Praxair talks but added that the probe was not targeted at any particular individuals.

A Linde spokesman said Reitzle's share purchases had been in accordance with corporate governance and financial markets regulation. (Reporting by Andreas Kroener; Writing by Ludwig Burger; Editing by Maria Sheahan)

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