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Lincare Said to Draw Interest From Linde and Air Liquide

Lincare Holdings Inc. (LNCR), a U.S. provider of oxygen and respiratory therapy services, is seeking a buyer and has attracted interest from companies including Germany’s Linde AG (LIN), two people familiar with the sale said.

Air Liquide SA (AI) of France has also expressed interest, one of the people said. JPMorgan Chase & Co. is advising Clearwater, Florida-based Lincare in talks with potential buyers, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the process is private. Linde, the world’s second-biggest maker of industrial gases, has also hired investment banks to advise it on a possible bid, one person said.

Since the close of June 26, Lincare has risen more than 32 percent, valuing the firm at $2.9 billion euros as of 12:21 p.m. New York time today. The Financial Times’s FT Alphaville reported on June 27 that Linde is leading the bidding in an auction for the U.S. company, citing unidentified sources. Linde Chief Executive Officer Wolfgang Reitzle has identified health care as one of the firm’s growth areas and in January agreed to buy Air Products & Chemicals Inc. (APD)’s home-care business.

Lincare may be worth $40 or more per share if it’s bought, Jefferies Group Inc. analyst Brian Tanquilut said in a note this week, raising the stock to “buy.” The stock was at $33.46 in early afternoon trading.

Private equity firms may also be interested in the company, said one of the people. The company is an “ideal” leveraged buyout target, Citigroup Inc. analyst Gary Taylor wrote in a note this week. Blackstone Group LP could be a potential buyer after its 2008 purchase of Apria Healthcare Group Inc., a U.S. provider of home-medical equipment, Taylor wrote.

Spokesmen for JPMorgan, Air Liquide and Linde declined to comment. A spokesman for Lincare was not immediately available for comment.

To contact the reporters on this story: Aaron Kirchfeld in London at akirchfeld@bloomberg.net; Jeffrey McCracken in New York at jmccracken3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jacqueline Simmons at jackiem@bloomberg.net

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