UPDATE 1-Praxair adds fizz with $1.1 billion NuCO2 buy
* To pay $1.1 bln in cash
* Deal to be neutral or add slightly to Praxair's 2013 EPS
* NuCO2 expected to generate 2013 sales of about $250 million
Feb 5 (Reuters) - Praxair Inc, the world's largest supplier of carbon dioxide, said it will buy NuCO2 Inc from private equity firm Aurora Capital Group for $1.1 billion to expand its beverage carbonation business.
NuCO2 produces beverage-grade carbon dioxide that is added to fountain soda and draught beer, and provides delivery services to national restaurant chains, convenience stores and entertainment locations.
The deal gives Aurora Capital more than twice the value of its $487 million investment in NuCO2.
NuCO2 was exploring a sale and had hired Goldman Sachs Group to run an auction, Reuters reported last month, citing sources.
NuCO2, which was taken private in 2008, withdrew plans for an initial public offering last July, more than two years after it first filed to list its stock.
The business is expected to generate full-year sales of about $250 million in 2013 and $115 million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA).
Praxair, valued at about $32.74 billion, expects 2013 sales of about $12 billion. The NuCO2 acquisition is expected to be neutral or add slightly to Praxair's 2013 earnings per share, estimated at between $5.85 and $6.10.
"We plan to continue to grow the business in the United States, enhance distribution efficiency utilizing Praxair's competencies in logistics, and extend NuCO2's offerings to customers in other regions of the world," Eduardo Menezes, executive vice president of Praxair, said in a statement.
NuCO2, like Praxair, has a micro-bulk beverage carbonation system that replaces traditional cylinders with an uninterrupted supply of on-site carbon dioxide, helping customers improve drink quality and avoid "flat" drinks.
Praxair shares closed at $110.18 on Monday on the New York Stock Exchange.