By Christine Benders-Rueger

FRANKFURT--Germany's financial regulator BaFin said Friday it opened a formal investigation into possible insider trading in shares of Linde AG in the period preceding the gas company's announcement of merger talks with U.S. peer Praxair Inc.

The two gas giant7s last month concluded a two-year courtship, agreeing to join forces to create the industry's biggest player with a combined market value of $66.6 billion. BaFin initially launched a routine review of Linde trading when shares jumped some 20% after negotiationsbecame public in August 2016.

Following this initial review, BaFin has decided there's reason to look into potential insider trading further and has initiated a formal investigation, a BaFin spokeswoman said, confirming a report published on Friday by German magazine Der Spiegel.

"We're looking at trading with Linde shares in general," the spokeswoman said. She would not comment on individuals. A Linde spokesman declined to comment.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 13, 2017 12:19 ET (17:19 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2017 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.