Continued sales growth and selective investment decisions in an environment rich in opportunities: Air Liquide releases solid third quarter (Q3) results.

The French industrial gas giant said group revenue totalled €5.5bn, up 3.5% on a comparable basis and in spite of a softening economic environment, Gas & Services posted robust comparable sales growth up 3.5%.

In Engineering & Construction, sales to third-party customers were stable compared with the second quarter, with resources mainly attributed to internal Large Industries and Electronics projects.

Within its Large Industries business, Air Liquide highlighted the signature of three long-term contracts in Q3, in the US Gulf Coast with Methanex, in Canada with Shell Chemicals and in the Philippines with Pilipinas Shell.

Global Markets & Technologies continued its strong development with growth of 29.7%.

Commenting on the Q3 results, Benoît Potier, Chairman and CEO of Air Liquide, said, “Growth was driven by all Gas & Services activities, which represent 96% of the Group’s sales, as well as our Global Markets & Technologies business. Positive currency and significant scope impacts offset lower energy prices.”

“All Gas & Services activities grew on a comparable basis, despite a more moderate global growth.”

“Healthcare and Electronics were particularly dynamic, and Industrial Merchant and Large Industries remained solid. Geographically, our business continued to grow in every region in the world, particularly across Asia and Europe.”

“Assuming a comparable environment, Air Liquide is confident in its ability to deliver net profit growth in 2019, at constant exchange rates.”

Americas

Gas & Services revenue amounted to €2.1bn, an increase of 2%. Large Industries sales were up 0.6%, affected by customer maintenance turnarounds in the US, Air Liquide explained.

Industrial Merchant revenue posted resilient growth of 1.1%, which Air Liquide said was mainly driven by higher pricing.

Electronics growth stood at 1.5% and Healthcare continued to improve markedly, up 11.1%.

Europe

Revenue in this zone reached €1.7bn over the quarter, up 3.3%, driven mainly by good Healthcare sales momentum (+4.8%) and strong growth in Industrial Merchant (+4.6%).

Large Industries sales (+0.6%) benefited from high hydrogen demand from refiners in the Benelux, but activity was weaker in Germany and Southern Europe.

Asia-Pacific

Revenue in Asia Pacific totalled €1.2bn in the third quarter of 2019, up 7.2%. Sales growth in Large Industries (+10.3%) benefited from several start-ups in the fourth quarter of 2018 in China, including the last contributions from Fujian Shenyuan.

Industrial Merchant sales growth (+3.7%) was in line with that of the second quarter overall. Electronics continued to enjoy strong revenue growth in the third quarter (+7.3%) despite a marked decrease in Equipment & Installation sales compared with a particularly high level in the third quarter of 2018.

Middle East and Africa

Revenue amounted to €156m, up 1.5% over the quarter. Large Industries activity was up slightly.

Industrial Merchant remained very dynamic in the Middle East, Egypt and India, with strong helium sales in particular.

Segments

In line with the first half of the year, all businesses contributed to the growth of Gas & Services revenue, in particular Healthcare and Electronics.

Large Industries (+3.3%) benefited notably from the contribution to sales of several ramp-ups in Asia, including the last contributions from Fujian Shenyuan, and to a lesser extend in Europe.

In a softening economic environment, growth in Industrial Merchant stood at 2.4%, driven mainly by successful pricing management, growth in consumer-related markets and a favourable number of working days.

Sales growth was high in Healthcare (+5.9%), in particular in Home Healthcare in Europe and in Latin America, and in Medical Gases in the US.

Electronics maintained a significant increase in revenue (+5.8%) despite a high basis of comparison, as Equipment & Installation (E&I) sales were very strong during the third quarter of 2018; growth stood at 8.6% excluding E&I.

Consolidated Engineering & Construction revenue, at €81m, was stable compared with the second quarter, with resources mainly attributed to internal Large Industries and Electronics projects.

Global Markets & Technologies sales were up 29.7% in the third quarter at €131m. Air Liquide said biomethane remained the main contributor to growth, with the ramp-up of several units in Europe. Equipment sales related to the Turbo‑Brayton technology, which enables the cryogenic refrigeration and reliquefaction of natural gas when transported by sea, also posted strong growth.

gasworld understands three key trends that could be interpreted from these results are:

  • Broad based slowdown in underlying year on year growthh across most geographies and businesses/product lines
  • Signs that impact of merchant price increases may be peaking
  • Strong growth in capex despite slowing top line growth.