Handelsblatt Exclusive Linde CEO Defends Praxair Merger Against Union Criticism

Aldo Belloni, the chief executive of the German industrial gas giant, said he was irritated by criticism from a trade union after labor representatives had already approved the merger with Praxair.

Aldo Belloni, the chief executive of the industrial gas giant Linde, has defended plans to merge with U.S. rival Praxair against criticism from trade unions.

The markets are saturated and Linde has to grow in order to remain profitable, Mr. Belloni told Handelsblatt in an interview. Doing nothing would be a setback for the company, he said.

The regional chief of the trade union IG Metall, Jürgen Wechsler, has criticized Linde’s planned merger with Praxair. Linde doesn’t need Praxair, Mr. Wechsler said, and a merger would likely come at the expense of the company’s employees.

Mr. Belloni said he was surprised and irritated that Mr. Wechsler questioned the deal after labor representatives in the supervisory board had already approved the merger.

The chief executive also dismissed speculation that an investigation by Germany’s financial regulator, BaFin, into insider trading allegations could jeopardize the merger. Mr. Belloni said the merger is between two companies, not between two people.

BaFin has not revealed who it’s investigating at Linde, but the company’s supervisory board chairman, Wolfgang Reitzle, bought nearly €500,000 worth of Linde stock in June when Linde was already in negotiations with Praxair about a merger.

Read the full interview in Friday's Handelsblatt Global.