BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU antitrust regulators approved on Monday German industrial gases group Linde's <LING.DE> planned $82 billion (£64.2 billion) merger with U.S. rival Praxair <PX.N> after the companies agreed to sell Praxair's assets to a Japanese rival together with other concessions.
The European Commission said the asset sales addressed its concerns that the deal may lead to price hikes and hurt competition.
"With this decision, we make sure that the merger of Praxair and Linde will not result in further concentration in Europe and that customers will continue to benefit from competition in these markets," European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.
The EU enforcer said Praxair will sell its entire gas business in the 28-country bloc, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, as well as transferring its stake in an Italian joint venture in central and eastern Europe to the partner Flow Fin.
The companies will also sell additional helium sourcing contracts to one or more buyers.
Praxair has already pledged to sell its industrial gases businesses in Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Britain, and shift approximately 2,500 employees to Taiyo Nippon Sanso Corp <4091.T> for 5 billion euros (£4.4 billion).
The Linde-Praxair deal, announced in June, would put the merged entity ahead of French competitor Air Liquide <AIRP.PA> in gas distribution.
(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee)