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Air Liquide’s acquisition of Airgas expanded its market in the U.S. – overnight. It ignited growth and innovation more rapidly than either company could have achieved alone, enabling game-changing transatlantic opportunities.

The power of expansion

When Air Liquide acquired Airgas, its global footprint was transformed in a single bound.

Founded in Paris in 1902, Air Liquide had grown to be an industrial gases leader in much of the world, but sought to strengthen its position in the attractive U.S. market. The French company sought Barclays’ full range of advisory, financing and risk management services to help make that possible. More and more, those conversations pointed to one potential target – Airgas.

Airgas was the strongest of these regional players, by size and also by its unique position in the region
Fabienne Lecorvaisier, Chief Financial Officer, Air Liquide

Headquartered in Radnor, Pennsylvania, Airgas is a leading distributor of industrial gases and associated products and services across the U.S. With strengths in e-commerce and customer centricity, Airgas is very complementary in nature to Air Liquide’s strength in technology, product innovation and operational efficiency.

Partnership across time zones

The execution of this cross-border, transatlantic acquisition was complex and coordinated in real time. A core team of Barclays colleagues from Paris, London and New York provided advice and confidentiality at every step. It was crucial that Barclays offered a geographic footprint similar to Air Liquide’s, with a complete range of M&A capabilities around the world. “Some banks can offer that, not all of them,” says Fabienne Lecorvaisier, Chief Financial Officer of Air Liquide.

Barclays’ global teams provided full service investment banking to Air Liquide

    • Understanding client’s business objectives for the transaction

    • Providing strategic advice and insight on potential targets, including competitors, alternatives, approach, timing, structure and pricing

    • Coordinating across legal, tax, structuring, marketing, and regulators to ensure seamless execution
    • Offering technical expertise across the industrial gases sector and in-depth knowledge of global and regional chemicals markets
    • Enabling access to the capital markets to finance the transaction

    • Analysing transaction economics and negotiating optimal financing

    • Structuring the financing by:

      • Underwriting the initial bridge facility

      • Re-financing the bridge facility via mix of debt and equity
    • Hedging of strategic and tactical risks to the transaction

    • Managing a large contingent, allowing flexibility and minimizing downside risk

Teamwork to execute

Once the deal was underway, things moved quickly. “We were engaged with the client early to shape the acquisition financing and capital markets refinancing strategy. But, when you have one month, four weeks, to put everything in place, it is a pretty short timeframe.” says Dimitri Dimopoulos, Managing Director of Loan Capital Markets at Barclays.

“We had to secure a $12 billion bridge loan in a few days, which is not an easy thing to do,” says Fabienne Lecorvaisier. “It's not pocket money.”

A sector transformed

Air Liquide is hard at work integrating the two companies, “to turn these thousands of opportunities into profitable growth,” says Fabienne Lecorvaisier.

“We leverage our savoir-faire to ensure a successful integration.” says Antonin Rigaudière, Head of M&A at Air Liquide. “As a global company the acquisition greatly expands our footprint in the U.S. to complete the full supply chain and better serve customers with an enriched offer.”

This is a transformational deal for Air Liquide
Gary Posternack, Global Head of M&A, Barclays

“Having a significant footprint in the U.S. is critical if you want to be a global player, and this gives them that at scale,” says Gary Posternack, Global Head of M&A at Barclays. “This is a transformational deal for Air Liquide. It positions them in an entirely different way for the next 10 to 20 years.”

“It’s really a game-changing acquisition for Air Liquide, but for the sector as well.” says Antonin Rigaudière. 

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Air Liquide sought Barclays' M&A and industry expertise to rebalance the geo mix and capture growth in the U.S.

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