April 3, 2017 / 8:37 AM / 6 months ago

Linde chairman ready to use casting vote for Praxair merger: FT

Linde Group logo is seen at company building before the annual news conference in Munich, Germany March 9, 2017. REUTERS/Lukas Barth

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - The chairman of German industrial gases group Linde (LING.DE) is prepared to use his casting vote to push through a $65 billion merger with U.S. rival Praxair (PX.N) in the face of worker opposition, he told the Financial Times.

Linde’s labor representatives told Reuters last week they planned to vote against the deal, which they fear will entail significant job losses in Europe to achieve $1 billion in synergies, and a loss of influence over strategy.

Labor controls half the seats on the supervisory board, which will have to approve the deal once the terms are finalised in the next month or so - but Chairman Wolfgang Reitzle can cast a double vote in the case of a deadlock.

“Yes, I‘m willing to do that,” he told the FT in a comment published on Monday.

Linde shares were up 1.4 percent by 0820 GMT on Monday, the top-gainer in the German blue chip index .GDAXI, which was 0.2 percent higher.

Reitzle is the driving force behind the planned all-share merger of equals, which would reunite a global Linde group split by the First World War a century ago. It is the second attempt by the two companies to agree a deal.

Chief Executive Aldo Belloni told the FT his role was to provide better communication to workers about the deal, not to grant further concessions.

Belloni was brought out of retirement by Reitzle to head Linde after the breakdown of the first attempt to merge with Praxair led to the departure of the then-CEO and finance chief.

Linde’s supervisory board is set to meet on Thursday. It will not yet vote on the merger as the terms are still being negotiated.

Reporting by Georgina Prodhan; editing by Susan Thomas

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