Allianz, Goldman in Messer partial exit

The private equity units of Allianz and Goldman Sachs have sold their majority interest in the German industrial gases company to French group Air Liquide in a €2.68bn deal.

French industrial gases producer Air Liquide has acquired German industrial gases company Messer Griesheim’s operations in the US, Germany and the UK for €2.68 billion ($3.32 billion) providing its majority shareholders, Allianz Capital Partners and Goldman Sachs Capital Partners, with a part-realisation of their interest in the business.

In April 2001, ACP and the Goldman Sachs Funds acquired 67 percent of Messer Griesheim from Hoechst (Aventis) in the largest European leveraged buyout at that time. Since then, the owners have divested activities in Latin America, Africa and Asia to focus on the company’s operations in the US and Europe. Reports at the time suggested that Allianz and Goldman paid €700 million for the acquisition and also assumed Aventis’s share of Messer’s estimated €1.6 billion of debt.

Following the divestment of the operations in Germany, the UK and the US, the newly formed Messer Group will operate in 26 countries in Western and Eastern Europe, as well as in China and Peru. Headquartered in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, it generated estimated pro-forma sales of around €470 million in 2003 and employs more than 3,600 people.

Messer said the businesses to be divested to Air Liquide generated revenues of around €1.04 billion and EBITDA of €265 million in 2003.

The Messer family will use the proceeds of the sale to acquire Allianz' and Goldman Sachs' remaining interest in the retained business. A spokesperson for Allianz said that the sale to Air Liquide was the second step in the process which will eventually see both Allianz and Goldman Sachs realise their investments in Messer. The sale of the remaining business to the Messer family is not due “until mid-year” and details of both firms’ return on investment is not expected until then. Goldmans Sachs Capital Partners was not available for comment.