Airgas has announced strong growth in sales. 30 September the second quarter results of $791m jumped 13 per cent compared with the same period in 2005.

Quarterly net earnings grew 33 per cent to $40m, or $0.49 per diluted share, in the same period a year ago.

Airgas chairman and chief executive officer Peter McCausland said: "Our core and growth strategies are yielding outstanding results for shareholders.

"Sales growth remains strong across our core markets and strategic products.

"We expanded our operating margins by 170 basis points over last year, to 10.7 per cent, and return on capital was up 230 basis points, to 12.8 per cent, reflecting revenue gains and operating efficiencies, as well as disciplined capital spending and asset management."

The company expects earnings per share from continuing operations for the third quarter of $0.37 to $0.39 per diluted share, and $0.49 to $0.52 per diluted share for the fourth quarter.