German industrial gas giant Linde said Sunday that it would acquire US domestic respiratory care company Lincare Holdings Inc. for $4.6 billion. The move means Linde has outdone its French rival Air Liquide, which various media reports said was also interested in Lincare after recently acquiring a much smaller French company active in the same business, LVL Medical Groupe. Linde will fund the transaction with an acquisition loan of $4.5 billion, to be refinanced by debt and equity issuances, it said in a statement. Closing is expected in the third quarter of fiscal year 2012. Linde is offering $41.50 per share for the company, which represents a premium of 22 percent over its closing price of $34.02 Friday evening, as rumors started spreading about the possible acquisition. Based in Clearwater, Florida, Lincare employs some 11,000 people. Last year, the group had a net income of $177 million on net revenues of $1.8 billion. The health care market has become an important diversification source for large gas producers looking to reduce their dependency on traditional industries.