Continuing to help those in need fight against Covid-19, completing the acquisition of 16 Sasol air separation units (ASUs) and launching its first green bond issue are just some of the highlights from Air Liquide’s first half of 2021.

Reporting its half year results today (29th July), the industrial gas giant highlighted an increase in both sales and operating margin, a strong investment portfolio and numerous initiatives related to sustainable development.

For the first half of 2021, Group revenue totalled $10bn, up 9.2% on a comparable basis with the first half of 2020 which was affected by the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Within this, Engineering & Construction consolidated revenue was up 65.9% in the first half on a comparable basis and Global Markets & Technologies was up 34.9%. Gas & Services revenue amounted to $10.3bn, representing an increase of 8% on a comparable basis.

Sales as published for the first half of 2021 were up by 4.3% despite the unfavourable currency impact and significant scope image, which were partially offset by the energy impact.

On the results, Benoït Potier, Chairman and CEO of Air Liquide, said, “This first half excellent performance reflects the momentum of our markets and the acceleration in sales in the second quarter. These exceeded the level seen in quarter two of 2019, across all regions and for all activities. Sales for the half year were close to $11bn, marking strong growth of 9.2% on a comparable basis, versus the first half of 2020.”

Sectors

In the first half, Healthcare sales showed significant growth of 9.4% on a comparable basis, with Air Liquide still remaining fully committed to the fight against Covid-19.

Large Industries revenue was up 7.3%, mainly due to the contribution of new facilities and the strong demand from the Steel and Chemical sectors.

Industrial Merchant sales were up 8.5% driven by a pick-up in sales volumes, strong activity in China and a solid 1.9% pricing impact over the half year.

Electronics sales increased 4.7%, with Carrier gases sales driven by the ramp-up of new production units.

Engineering & Construction consolidated revenue were up 65.9% and stood up $169m in the first half of 2021. Order intake totalled $542m, due to positive momentum in Asia.

Global Markets & Technologies sales totalled $327m, with strong comparable growth of 34.9%, supported notably by biogas activity and high value added technological equipment sales. 

Geographies 

Gas & Services revenue in the Americas totalled $4bn, up 7.3% on a comparable basis with the first half of 2020, which had been down 5.1%. 

In North America, all the business lines returned to a close or higher level in the second quarter than the same period in 2019. Latin American sales enjoyed strong growth in all business lines in the first half.

As Covid-19 continues to affect the globe, Air Liquide said Healthcare sales increased by +16.9% driven by the medical oxygen demand and the pick-up in activity in proximity care and Home Healthcare.

Revenue in Europe amounted to $3.6bn and was up 7.4% on a comparable basis. Sales and industries activities were higher than those in the first half of 2019.

Large Industries sales experienced strong activity in the Steel and Chemical sectors. Industrial Merchant sales were up 11.3% and reached a higher level than in the first half of 2019.

Again, Healthcare remained committed to fighting the pandemic and has seen a pick-up in the Home Healthcare business and surgical activities in hospitals.

Sales in Asia Pacific increased by 8.7% on a comparable basis and totalled $2.3bn. All business lines and regions posted growth in the first half of 2021, due to a favourable basis of comparison with the first half of 202 which was down 2.1% due to Covid-19. 

Volumes were strong in Large Industries and saw an increase in revenue of 9.8%. Strong growth in Industrial Merchant sales was mainly driven by high activity in China which posted double-digit volume growth compared with the first half of 2019.

In Electronics, Carrier gases contributed significantly to growth and benefited from the ramp-up of several units.

Revenue in the Middle East and Africa region stood at $308m, up 18.9%.

On the breakdown, Potier continued, “In Gas & Services, the rebound in industrial activities was particularly strong in the second quarter, both in Large Industries and Industrial Merchant. Electronics also recorded strong growth at the end of the half year. The Healthcare business line remained at a high level, with teams strongly committed to the fight against the pandemic. Geographically speaking, markets are growing in all regions, although some countries remain vulnerable to the pandemic situation.” 

“The Group’s operating margin rose again sharply, by +100 basis points, excluding the energy impact. This improvement reflects the contribution of the structural margin improvement program, through ongoing recurring efficiency programs in the amount of $206m, in line with the annual objective set at more than $400m.

“It also illustrates the strong pricing policy, in particular in Industrial Merchant, active business portfolio management and is temporarily supported by the effects of the exceptional cost containment plan, which will diminish with the recovery in activity.”

“Net profit rose significantly by +14.9% to more than $1.2bn. The cash flow to sales ratio also increased and reached 23%. The debt-to-equity ratio was down sharply versus the end of June 2020.” 

“In 2021, in a context of recovery in the second half of the year, Air Liquide is confident in its ability to further increase its operating margin and to deliver recurring net profit growth, at constant exchange rates.”