Apria finalizes acquisition of Air Liquide

Sunday, July 3, 2005

PARIS - Industrial gas giant Air Liquide confirmed rumors last week when it announced that it will sell its U.S. HME operations, VitalAire Homecare, to Apria Healthcare.

"Air Liquide Healthcare will continue to focus on the fast growing markets where it has established solid positions. We will pursue our development, particularly on the basis of our European activities, and will consider, in the large markets including the USA, any attractive opportunity which would allow us to achieve critical mass," said Jean-Marc de Royere, senior vice president os health and specialty chemicals in a company statement.

The Braff Group represented Air Liquide in the deal.

Air Liquide entered the U.S. HME market in 1998 when it bought InHome Medical for an estimated $18 million. At the time, InHome operated 22 locations in north Florida and one each in Georgia and South Carolina.

Since then, Air Liquide has done little if anything to expand VitalAire, sources say.

Some industry watchers speculate that Air Liquide, by selling its existing HME holdings, is laying the groundwork for a bigger, more aggressive move into the U.S. HME market.

"I would not be surprised if they were to make a sizeable acquisition
in the future after some of the issues like competitive bidding are resolved," said Braff Group associate Bob Leonard, who managed the transaction for Air Liquide.