According to a recent Air Liquide press release first half profit rose 10 per cent as oil refiners used more of its hydrogen to improve fuel quality.

Air Liquide reported increased earnings after the company\\$quot;s board of directors met on 1 September 2006 and reviewed financial statements for the first half of 2006.

As of 30 June 2006 revenues amounted to nearly €5.5m, an increase of 8.8 per cent versus the first half of 2005. On a comparable basis (excluding currency, natural gas and deconsolidation of US liquid chemicals), growth was up 6 per cent and net profit group share was €480m, an increase of 10.2 per cent.

Merrill Lynch - stronger businesses than 2005
Analysts, Merrill Lynch, predicted a net income of €471m versus reported income of €480m and thought that the mixture of businesses was much stronger than in 2005.

Benoît Potier, CEO, commented:"The first half of 2006 saw strong growth in all our activities, continuing the positive trends seen in 2005, and sustained progress in both revenues and earnings in all geographic zones."

According to Bloomberg news, Air Liquide CEO, Benoit Potier, expects hydrogen sales to double to €1bn by 2008 as refiners seek to lower sulphur levels in gasoline and diesel. Air Liquide is trying to pass energy costs to clients after the price of Brent crude oil jumped 17 per cent this year to about $69 a barrel.

Analysis by geographic zone
In Europe, operating income recurring reached €552m, an increase of 9.9 per cent compared with the first half of 2005. The Americas reached €196m, an increase of 11.3 per cent. In the Asia-Pacific zone, operating income recurring rose to reach €129m, showing only slight growth (+1.6%).

2006 outlook - company\\$quot;s growth momentum maintained
According to Benoît Potier the second half of 2006 should see the company\\$quot;s growth momentum maintained, with continued development in all of their markets, particularly hydrogen with the start-up of new contracts, good trends in Healthcare and further progress in Asia.

"We will make renewed price efforts in the second half, particularly in the context of ongoing high increases in raw material and energy costs, and our efficiency programs will be vigorously pursued," he said.

"On this basis, we remain confident and maintain our target for the year of growth in comparable net earnings close to that of 2005."

Additional information:
Air Liquide