Acquiring a nearly 20% equity stake in hydrogen generation technology specialist Hydrogenics Corporation, inaugurating its Tokyo Innovation Campus in Japan and signing numerous long-term contracts are just three highlights from 2019 for Air Liquide.
The French industrial gas giant today released its 2019 annual financials, highlighting a “landmark year” for performance, investments and commitment to climate.
Commenting on the results for 2019, Benoît Potier, Air Liquide Chairman and CEO, said, “2019 is a landmark year, characterised simultaneously by a significant improvement in performance, a high level of investments to serve our customers and strengthen our efficiency, and the operational implementation of our climate action plan.”
Read more: Air Liquide financials: Operations in focus
Group revenue for 2019 totalled €21.9bn, up 3.2% on a comparable basis.
Gas & Services enjoyed a robust comparable sales growth of +3.5% on a comparable basis reaching €21.04bn, despite the slowing economic environment in the fourth quarter of 2019.
Consolidated Engineering & Construction revenue, at €328m, was down compared with 2018, with resources mainly allocated to internal projects in Large Industries and Electronics.
Total sales including Group projects were up, boosted by a record-high level of investment decisions, in particular in Large Industries.
Global Markets & Technologies revenue was up 14.9% in 2019 on a comparable basis, at €552m.
Biomethane grew strongly thanks to the ramp-up of several units in Europe. Sales of equipment related to the Turbo Brayton technology, which reduces greenhouse gas emissions when transporting natural gas by sea, also strongly contributed to this growth.
“2019 sales were driven by the development of Gas & Services and Global Markets & Technologies,” Potier said.
“On a comparable basis, all Gas & Services activities, which account for 96% of Group revenue, progressed over the year, with particularly dynamic Electronics and Healthcare. Geographically, every region grew, notably the Europe and Asia-Pacific regions.”
“Overall, and despite the expected global economic slowdown observed in the 4th quarter, the Group delivered robust results, confirming the relevance of its economic model and strategy.”
“The improvement in the Group’s operating margin reflects the dynamic management of both pricing and product mix, the asset portfolio, and efficiencies. The latter reached €433m.
“The Group’s balance sheet is solid. ROCE continues to improve. 2019 performance is in line with all of the targets of the NEOS program and the Group’s climate objectives.”
“In a context where industrial opportunities remain high, investment decisions rose sharply, to €3.7bn.”
“The new projects that have been signed with our clients in Large Industry and Electronics will allow us to further strengthen our position in our major industrial basins.”
The acquisition of Tech Air in the US at the end of the first quarter of 2019 and the disposal of Fujian Shenyuan in September generated a significant scope impact of +0.4% over the year. Air Liquide’s published revenue growth was therefore up 4.3% for 2019.
Read more: Airgas completes acquisition of Tech Air
Revenue in the Americas totalled just under €8.5bn in 2019, an increase of 1.5% in comparable growth.
Large Industries sales were stable in 2019, due to several customer maintenance turnarounds in the US during the second half of the year.
Industrial Merchant revenue growth was resilient at +0.7%, driven mainly by higher prices.
Electronics growth stood at +2.1% and Healthcare continued to improve strongly (+9.7%), in particular in Medical Gases in the US and Latin America.
Revenue in Europe reached just under €7.2bn over 2019, up 3.4% on a comparable basis, driven mainly by good Healthcare sales momentum (+5.2%) and a solid growth in Industrial Merchant (+3.4%), notably thanks to high price impacts and robust volumes.
Large Industries sales (+1.7%) were driven by higher hydrogen volumes for refineries in Benelux, whereas demand remained weaker in the Steel and Chemical sectors.
Revenue in the Asia Pacific zone totalled just under €4.8bn in 2019, up 7.7% on a comparable basis.
Large Industries sales grew strongly (+9.7%) thanks to the ramp-up of several units in China.
Industrial Merchant growth was solid (+3.7%), in particular in China and South-East Asia.
Read more: 2019 in Review: Air Liquide
Electronics revenue maintained its very dynamic growth momentum in 2019 (+10.4%) despite a major decline in Equipment & Installations sales in the fourth quarter compared with record high sales in 2018.
Revenue in the Middle East and Africa zone amounted to €614m, up 1.5% over 2019 on a comparable basis.
Industrial Merchant remained very dynamic in the Middle East, Egypt and India, with strong helium sales in particular.
Activity was up slightly in Large Industries, with the major units in the region, located in Saudi Arabia and South Africa, now operating at full capacity.
The Healthcare business continued to grow in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Looking to the future, Potier said, “Assuming no major change in the environment and the international health situation is under control, Air Liquide is confident in its ability to further increase its operating margin and to deliver net profit growth in 2020, at constant exchange rates.”
Commenting on Air Liquide’s 2019 annual financials, gasworld’s Global Managing Editor Rob Cockerill said, “This is clearly a very dynamic and distinct set of results from the Air Liquide Group, particularly against the backdrop of an apprehensive fourth quarter 2019 as winds of caution across various end-user markets inevitably blew through the gas and equipment industry.”
“Performance appears to have been both robust and sustained throughout the year, from the marked increase in efficiencies to the more than solid growth in the Europe region, for example.”
“In fact, its European performance is particularly interesting given the level of growth (3.4%) in what is a very mature market, and with this being largely underpinned by both robust volumes and the continued momentum in healthcare. This affirms our belief in a more progressive period in the region and sets the scene perfectly for our industrial gas summit in Hungary this summer.”