Continued success in clean energy was a major highlight of Air Liquide’s third quarter, with multiple hydrogen development partnerships formed across the globe. These were formed against the backdrop of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, which Air Liquide has fought with its continued mobilisation of teams.
Released today (22nd October), the third quarter results also highlighted the company’s successful launch of a long-term bond issue for a total of €500m, in addition to strong sales growth in gas & services, engineering & construction and global markets & technologies.
Group revenue in the third quarter totalled €5.8bn, with sales up 7.1% compared with third quarter, 2020, and around 6% compared to third quarter, 2019.
Engineering & Construction consolidated revenue saw a 35.1% growth, with Global Markets & Technologies up by 15.9% and Gas & Services revenue rising by 6.5% to €5.6bn.
Commenting on the results, Benoït Potier, Chairman and CEO of Air Liquide, said, “The third quarter confirms the continued sales growth observed in the first half-year. All activities are increasing: Gas & Services in all regions of the world, Engineering & Construction and Global Markets & Technologies, in a more favourable market environment.”
The third quarter saw a strong performance in Healthcare, with sales up by 6.2% despite a ‘very high’ basis of comparison last year.
Large Industries sales rose by 3.4%, a positive increase in the face of measures imposed in China to limit energy consumption at some customer plants.
The Industrial Merchant business saw recovery, with sales up by 7.5% - showing numbers higher than 2019 levels with pricing impact accelerated significantly.
There was a sales growth in Electronics of 10.4%, considered strong in a market considered to be ‘very dynamic’.
Engineering & Construction saw a 35.1% growth with consolidated revenue of €81m, though this was relative to a slowdown in sales caused by the pandemic in 2020.
A strengthening biogas and hydrogen industry saw growth for Global Markets & Technologies increased by 15.9%, with an 8.9% increase in the impact of energy. This saw sales up to €168m, boosted by the sales of hydrogen refuelling sales in Asia.
Gas & Services revenue in the Americas totalled €2.1bn, an increase of 8.2%. Healthcare rose by 14% due mainly to the fight against Covid-19.
High demand and the ramp-up of new units saw Large Industries sales increasing by 7.4% and continuing recovery in the Industrial Merchant business resulted in a 7.5% increase in revenue. A ‘thriving market’ saw Electronics gain 6.6%.
The companies reported revenue in Europe amounted to just over €2bn, an increase of 5.8%. Large Industries sales expanded on strong demand in the Steel and Chemicals sectors, in addition to increasing volumes in Refining, resulting in a 7.6% increase.
Up 7.2%, further increases were seen in the Industrial Merchant business, with sales picking up across all markets and countries.
‘Exceptionally high’ sales of ventilators in the third quarter due to pandemic needs saw Healthcare revenue rise by 2.6%.
Revenue in Asia-Pacific rose by 4.1% to €1.2bn. China’s Dual Energy Control measures and customer maintenance turnarounds impacted Large Industries, resulting in a decrease by 5.5%.
Sales up 8.3%, the Industrial Merchant business was boosted by a marked activity increase in China, as well as recovery in the rest of Asia.
Double digit growth in sales of carrier gases, in addition to Equipment & Installations revenue, saw Electronics sales rising by 10.8%.
The Middle East and Africa revenue rose by 10.4% to €206m. Customer demand in the Yanbu basin saw sales of hydrogen in Saudi Arabia continue to recover.
A surge in air gas volumes was seen following the first contribution of 16 Sasol air separation units (an acquisition finalised in June).
The Industrial Merchant business saw sales rise, staying above the levels of the third quarter of 2019.
Poitier’s statement on the results continued, “Within Gas & Services, which accounts for 96% of sales, activity is particularly supported by the momentum of the Electronics industry, the continued recovery the Industrial Merchant business and the robustness of Healthcare activities. Mobilisation of teams continued this quarter in fighting the pandemic in several regions of the world, particularly in the supply of medical oxygen.”
“Geographically, activity levels are particularly strong in the Americas and Europe, and more contrasted in Asia.”
“The Group continues its momentum of improving its operation margin, driven by operational efficiencies of €314m over the first nine months, in line with the annual target of more than €400m, and active price management taking into account he inflationary context.”
“Cash flow remains high above 23% of sales excluding energy impact.”
The energy transition played a major part in growth seen in the company’s third quarter results, with more than 40% of its 12-month investment opportunities, worth €3.3bn, related to the energy transition.
“In this context, the Group approved investments of nearly €900m this quarter, notable in Large Industries and Electronics. One third of industrial investment decisions will contribute to the energy transition.”
A ‘robust and diversified’ investment backlog, currently running at €3.1bn, was seen as particularly promising for future growth.
Poitier concluded by saying that Air Liquide is confident in its ability to deliver recurring net profit growth.