FRANKFURT (Reuters) - German gases company Messer Group is the preferred bidder for rival Linde's <LING.DE> North American business, which it must sell to complete its $83 billion merger of equals with Praxair <PX.N>, German magazine WirtschaftsWoche reported on Thursday.
Citing sources close to the negotiations, WirtschaftsWoche said the sale could take place "very soon" and that the "audit was almost complete".
Representatives of Linde and Messer were not immediately available for comment.
Linde and Praxair, which supply a wide range of gases from oxygen to helium, need to sell assets to gain regulatory approval for their all-share merger deal to create a global leader with revenue of almost $29 billion (21.95 billion pounds)and 88,000 staff.
Praxair this month agreed to sell its European gases business to Japanese rival Taiyo Nippon Sanso Corp <4091.t> for 5 billion euros (4.42 billion pounds).
($1 = 0.8565 euros)
(Reporting by Alexander Huebner; Writing by Caroline Copley; Editing by David Goodman)