Gases giant BOC has become the latest historic manufacturer to fall into foreign hands after accepting an £8.2 billion bid from German industrial conglomerate Linde.
BOC agreed to join forces with Linde and create the world's biggest industrial gases supplier after receiving an offer worth £16 a share and setting aside concerns about possible intervention from regulators.
The bid represented an improvement on a £15-per-share proposal that Linde tabled in January, which was rejected by BOC as too low.
BOC, which began life in 1886 when brothers Arthur and Leon Brin set up Brin's Oxygen Company, employs 30,000 people and serves two million customers in more than 50 countries.
It generated sales of £4.6 billion and underlying profits of £564.2 million in its last financial year.
Wolfgang Reitzle, chief executive of Linde, said the benefits of a tie-up with BOC included the ability to offer customers a greater range of products and services.
He added: "We will have an even better entrance into the international fast-growing markets which will provide the basis for stable future earnings and cash flows."
The combined group will have annual sales of around 11.9 billion euros (£8.16 billion), with the regional strength of BOC in Asia complementing the footprint of Linde in Europe and South America.
Savings of around 250 million euros (£171.3 million) a year have been identified by bosses and should be realised during 2009.
Mr Reitzle added that only a small number of job cuts should be expected.
The chief executive also said there were no "insuperable" competition concerns, even though BOC has previously admitted that it fears a repeat of the saga that followed an agreed £7 billion takeover by rivals Air Liquide of France and Air Products of the United States six years ago. That deal was scuppered by American regulators.
Linde also revealed that it was evaluating its "strategic options" for its unit making forklift trucks, which accounted for 38 per cent of its sales last year. Disposing of the business would allow it to focus purely on gases and engineering. Mr Reitzle declined to say whether the group will sell any BOC units, such as the Gist or Edwards businesses.
The Transport and General Workers' Union, which has thousands of members at BOC, said it wanted assurances from Linde about continued investment, the pension scheme and safety.
Peter Booth, T&G national organiser for manufacturing, noted that Linde was smaller than BOC and believed the takeover raised fundamental questions about the weaknesses of UK companies.
He said: "If anything, we would have expected the larger BOC to takeover Linde."