updated 11/6/2006 8:59:50 AM ET 2006-11-06T13:59:50

Linde AG, a German maker of industrial gases and machinery, sold its forklift division to private equity firms Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. and Goldman Sachs Capital Partners for 3.6 billion euros ($4.59 billion), the company said.

The deal for the KION Group was signed Sunday night and is subject to regulatory approval, the Wiesbaden-based company said in a statement. It also includes 400 million euros ($510.4 million) of financial liabilities, Linde said.

"After carefully examining all the options, we have chosen a strong and strategically oriented partner who will facilitate a seamless transition and enable KION to continue on its path towards earnings-based growth," said Linde executive board president Wolfgang Reitzle.

The KION Group is the umbrella company for three forklift truck and industrial equipment brands, Linde, STILL and OM. It currently has more than 20,000 employees.

In the 2005 financial year, the division achieved sales of around 3.6 billion euros.

In a joint statement, Johannes Huth, the head of European operations at KKR, and Alexander Dibelius, the head of Central and Eastern Europe at Goldman Sachs, said the medium term goal for KION is an IPO.

"KION is an extremely well-positioned company in the international industrial truck industry which has excellent prospects," they said.

Linde shares rose 1.14 percent in Frankfurt trading to 77.07 euros ($98.34).

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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