The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission will not intervene in the acquisition of BOC Australia by a specifically formed acquisition vehicle owned jointly by Air Products and Air Liquide.

Air Products and Chemicals is an American multinational firm primarily selling industrial and related gases (for welding and medical uses). Air Liquide is a French multinational firm which also sells industrial and related gases. BOC Australia is the Australian subsidiary of BOC Group, a British multinational firm selling industrial gases and welding equipment.

In July 1999, Air Products and Air Liquide announced they would form a joint acquisition vehicle to bid for the BOC Group as a global acquisition. Air Products and Air Liquide have agreed to restructure the individual businesses of the BOC Group and for Air Products and Air Liquide to conduct the restructured businesses independently once control is gained.

In Australia, the entire BOC business will ultimately pass to Air Products. Air Products currently has no Australian presence in these businesses. Air Liquide already has a significant presence in the local industrial and related gases businesses through its subsidiary, Air Liquide Australia.

'The ACCC believes the acquisition of BOC Group's Australian operations by the joint acquisition company, and ultimately by Air Products, will not substantially affect competition, provided that certain guarantees are provided by the parties to the ACCC', ACCC Chairman, Professor Allan Fels, said today.

'Those guarantees took the form of court-enforceable undertakings. The undertakings provide that: the BOC Australia business will pass to Air Products on or before the end of three months after the joint acquisition vehicle has acquired 100% of the issued share capital in BOC Group; during the transition period, the BOC Australia business will be conducted separately from Air Liquide's Australian operations and the passing of information between the parties will be prohibited, subject to certain information required for reporting, restructuring and safety purposes; and

Air Products intends to run the BOC Australia businesses in the same manner as they are presently operated, based on present information, and to be an active and vigorous competitor to Air Liquide and other firms in the relevant Australian markets.'

'These undertakings will help ensure that the competitive dynamic Between BOC Australia and Air Liquide Australia is preserved and that BOC's Australian operations are 'quarantined' during the period when both Air Products and Air Liquide will, in effect, be the joint indirect owners of BOC Australia,' Professor Fels said.

So far, competition authorities in Canada, New Zealand and Europe have cleared the global transaction.