Fourth quarter sales reached $980 m, a sequential increase of 2% in sales per day and 4% in total sales compared to the previous quarter.
Relative to the same quarter in 2003, total same-store sales declined 3%, with hard-goods reduced by 2%, while gas and rent decreased by 3%. Meanwhile acquisitions contributed to 2% sales growth during the quarter.
Peter McCausland, Airgas Chairman and CEO, commented, “The economic recovery appears to be building momentum, as daily sales rates improved sequentially for the second consecutive quarter, and March was our first positive same-store sales month since 2008.” Airgas attributed sequential decline to the seasonality of specific businesses in the All Other Operations segment.
Looking ahead, McCausland anticipated, “The signs point to a strengthening industrial economy, and we expect to achieve same-store sales growth in the mid to high single digits for fiscal 2011.” He also reported confidence in Airgas’s, “track record of success in delivering strong returns and creating meaningful value for all Airgas stockholders.”
McCausland illustrated Airgas’ overall optimism, “Having achieved strong earnings deep into the recession and solid results through the downturn, we are excited to again have our sights on double-digit earnings growth.”
The company anticipates diluted earnings per share (EPS) of $0.70 to $0.72 for the first quarter. Similarly for the full year 2011, Airgas expects diluted EPS of $2.95 to $3.05, an increase of 10% to 14% over fiscal 2010 adjusted earnings. These projections do not incorporate the possible impact of debt extinguishment, multi-employer pension plan withdrawal charges, or future costs related to the unsolicited takeover attempt.