October 5, 2017 / 8:06 AM / a year ago

Linde urges investors to exchange shares for Praxair merger

FRANKFURT, Oct 5 (Reuters) - German industrial gases group Linde urged investors to tender their shares in an exchange offer for its planned $80 billion merger with U.S. peer Praxair as a deadline approaches to reach 75 percent acceptance.

As of Oct. 4, seven weeks after the offer was launched, it had been accepted for 27.7 percent of outstanding Linde shares. The acceptance period ends at midnight on Oct. 24.

"We have been encouraged by the number of shareholders that have already accepted the offer. Now that we are entering the final phase of the offer period, I would like to address you personally," Chief Executive Aldo Belloni wrote in a letter to shareholders on Thursday.

The planned all-share merger of equals will create a global leader to overtake France's Air Liquide with a combined market value of $80 billion, revenue of $28.7 billion and 88,000 staff.

Institutional investors who have accepted include Norway's $1 trillion wealth fund Norges, Schroder Investment Management and Union Investment.

Praxair shareholders have already voted in favour of the deal at an extraordinary meeting on Sept. 27.

Linde estimates that individual retail investors own about 22 percent of its shares, while 10-13 percent may be held by index-tracker funds, some of which have rules which forbid them from tendering until acceptance reaches a certain level.

Chairman Wolfgang Reitzle told Reuters in June that tracking down retail investors would be tough.

Reporting by Georgina Prodhan; editing by Jason Neely

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