Gases giant BOC Group, which is being taken over by German rival Linde, has pumped up its third-quarter profits by a fifth.

The Surrey-based firm said adjusted operating profit reached £162.2 million in the three months to end-June as sales rose 16 per cent to £1.01 billion.

BOC said group earnings per share for the quarter rose to 17.3 pence from 13.8 pence a year ago, and that its outlook remained unchanged.

It said "strong pricing trends" helped offset rising e nergy costs and boost revenues.

In March, BOC agreed to join forces with Linde to create the world's biggest industrial gases supplier in a deal worth £8.2 billion.

BOC chief executive Tony Isaac said that once the Linde offer process was completed, the company might expect to be under German control on S eptember 5 - making yesterday's results BOC's last as an independent firm.

Linde said last month it had already received approval from the US Federal Trade Commission for the acquisition after securing the goa head from European regulators.

But Mr Isaac, who has worked at BOC for the last 12 years, was unwilling to revwal any clues about what he might do when Linde's executives arrive.

"I just plan to carry on through the next few weeks, to make sure there's an orderly handover, and then I can decide what I'm going to do in the future," he said.

BOC has three main global businesses: process gas, serving industries such as oil refining, chemicals and steel; industrial and special products, which delivers gas in cylinders; and BOC Edwards, which supplies gas and services to the semiconductor industry.

The firm - founded in 1886 when brothers Arthur and Leon Brin set up Brin's Oxygen Company - has logistics arm, Gist. The group employs 30,000 people and serves two million customers in more than 50 countries.

Mr Isaac said BOC was in talks with industrial group Ingersoll-Rand about selling a small part of BOC Edwards.

UBS analyst Thomas Gilbert said BOC was "bidding farewell on a high note".