Business Intelligence Financial - Air Liquide - Q4 2016
gasworld Business Intelligence provides you with the latest analysis of Air Liquide’s Q4 2016 earnings report.
Reported corporate sales growth was up nearly 19% YoY in Q4 2016 to €4.9bn. This was substantially driven by the full consolidation of the acquired Airgas business.
The Gases & Services sector now accounts for over 95% of corporate sales post-Airgas, with Engineering & Construction over 2% and the Global Markets & Technologies unit under 2%.
The Aqua Lung diving business was divested, while the Welding business is being considered for sale. Therefore both have been reported as Discontinued businesses which would have been equivalent to 3% of sales.
Reported sales in Gases & Services were up over 30% in Q4, while Engineering & Construction was down 34% YoY (with order intake improving sequentially but remaining down 40% YoY in Q4). Global Markets & Technologies was again up 20% (with order intake also up over 80%).
Corporate operating income is estimated to have risen less than sales, due to lower profitability of the acquired Airgas business and the Q4 profile of the Air Liquide business. However, the growth gap has narrowed and as a result the corporate operating margin is estimated to have improved.
ROCE on a reported basis stood at 7.8% for 2016.
Cost savings and efficiency measures continue to rise YoY, with efficiency gains maintained at over €90m in Q4 (excluding Airgas).
The Airgas integration is on track. First cost synergies of €42m are on target, spread across bulk and packaged operations and back office scheduled to be complete by end-2018. Reported gases growth remained close to 30% in Q4, with this rate almost entirely driven by the major positive impact of the Airgas acquisition. There was no impact from currency in Q4, while energy cost pass-through had a marginal positive impact for the first time in two years. This was primarily driven by natural gas, with a smaller positive impact from power.
Reported gases growth remained close to 30% in Q4, with this rate almost entirely driven again by the major positive impact of the Airgas acquisition. No impact from currency in Q4, while energy cost pass-through had a marginal positive impact for the first time in two years, primarily driven by natural gas with small positive impact also from power.
Underlying growth slipped further to less than 2% in Q4. This was almost entirely driven again by slowing volume growth, which slipped further below the trend of recent years. Price impact remains flat/modest and is being positively driven by merchant pricing, with electronics also helped by some specific increases.
The underlying growth trend of recent years for Air Liquide is above industry peers and is driven by significantly higher volume impact. However, price impact has been lower than the peer group average.
The Industrial Merchant sector is now Air Liquide’s largest Gases & Services business post-Airgas, representing nearly half of sales. Large Industries now accounts for just over a quarter of sales, with Healthcare representing 17% and Electronics 8%.
Industrial Merchant showed the highest YoY growth in Q4 reported sales, due to Airgas.
Healthcare growth remained in double digits at close to 18% and was impacted by the addition of Airgas sales in this sector.
Electronics growth continued to weaken as growth turned negative in Q4.
Large Industries recovered in Q4 to achieve positive growth for the first time in 2016.
Large Industries and Healthcare again showed the highest growth on a comparable basis in Q4 at around 5% (excluding acquisitions, currency, energy pass-through) – both cases were close to the trend growth rate of years.
There were strong air gas volumes in Large Industries, combined with several significant turnarounds.
Electronics showed a further weakening and was significantly negative YoY for the first time since early-2013. There was lower E&I, dynamic Advanced Materials and solid carrier gases.
Industrial Merchant remained negative in Q4 for the seventh consecutive quarter. Bulk volumes were better in Europe, Asia and the US. Food was up, manufacturing stabilised and construction was down.
There was an increase in Homecare patient numbers and strong Hygiene and Specialty Ingredients sectors.
The Americas became the largest geographic region for Air Liquide, post-Airgas, accounting for over 40% of sales. Europe now represents one third, with Asia Pacific over 20% and Middle East and Africa accounting for under 3%.
Reported sales doubled in the Americas in Q4, due to the Airgas acquisition.
Asia Pacific reported growth eased slightly to 3% and remained below the performance of the previous 2 years.
Europe reported revenue growth turned positive for the first time in 2016.
The small Middle East & Africa business declined further into negative territory, YoY.
Developed economies in total showed strong growth of 8%, particularly in China, Turkey, Poland and Latin America.
Just over 40% of Air Liquide’s Large Industries sales are in Europe, with around 30% each in Asia Pacific and Americas
Significant changes in relative performance across the three major regions.
Asia Pacific slipped back to be virtually unchanged (0.5%) YoY – its weakest performance in many years.
Americas growth remained solid at 6%. Europe improved significantly to show growth of 8% and become the highest growth Large Industries region for the first time in recent years. Oxygen volumes were up by 6%.
Europe is now responsible for over 70% of Air Liquide’s Healthcare business, with the Americas representing most of the remainder. Asia Pacific accounts for around two thirds of electronics sales, the Americas 20% with Europe closer to 10%.
Asia Pacific growth in Electronics slipped further to be flat YoY, its lowest rate since 2013. Americas electronics growth also slipped significantly to be down 15% YoY. Carrier gases growth was up and advanced materials was again up 20%.
Growth in the large Europe Healthcare business was again just under 5% in Q4, but the Americas performance slipped back to be similar to European performance. Home healthcare up over 5%, hospital gases flat, dynamic hygiene and specialty ingredients.
Europe business is equally balanced between Large Industries, Industrial Merchant and Healthcare (each accounting for around one third of sales), with Electronics only 3% of sales.
Large Industries improved sharply to be up 8% in Q4, its highest growth in recent years. There were good volumes in air gases and positive one-off, robust growth in East Europe (Russia, Poland, Turkey).
Industrial Merchant remained in negative territory in Q4 in line with the trend of recent years. Bulk volumes increased again, cylinders sales were encouraging, Food up but Fabrication lower. Regionally there was growth in South West Europe, dynamic East Europe (Russia, Poland)
Healthcare growth remained solid at nearly 5%, although below recent peaks. There was steady organic growth with low contribution from bolt-on acquisitions. The company also experienced strong growth in hygiene.
The Americas business was dominated by Industrial Merchant (70% of sales post-Airgas) and Large Industries (under 20%). Other business sectors included Healthcare and Electronics, which accounted for 9% and 5% of sales respectively.
Underlying Industrial Merchant growth remained significantly negative (3%) on a comparable basis, continuing its weakest performance for many years. The sector remained weak in North America, despite better US bulk volumes. Volumes were down in Energy, Mining, Metal Fab; solid in Food and Pharms. Positive signs in packaged gases for construction.
Large Industries growth continued the solid trend seen over the last year at 6% YoY in Q4. There were record air gas volumes in the US, several H2 turnarounds and continued double digit growth in South America.
Healthcare growth slowed sharply to 5%, close to its lowest performance of recent years. There were instances of good growth, such as developments in South America (double-digit growth in Brazil, Argentina) and a positive acquisition impact in Canada.
Electronics growth declined at a rate of over 10% YoY, lower E&I sales.
Air Liquide’s Asia-Pacific business is dominated by Large Industries (37%) and Industrial Merchant (31%). Electronics are also important (27%) but Healthcare remains relatively small (4%).
The Industrial Merchant weak growth trend of last two years continued with comparable sales flat YoY in Q4. Growth was strong in China where bulk, and cylinders up over 9%, Japan was flat whilst Australia returned to growth.
Large Industries growth slowed sharply to be little changed YoY, its weakest performance in recent years. There were several plant turnarounds and a ramp up of a new Australian plant.
Electronics growth in the region slipped again to be flat YoY in Q4 – high 2015 in E&I and neon, China, Singapore and Taiwan all up by less than 9%, low E&I and ESM in North East Asia, carrier gases up over 5%.
Overall regional performance boosted by growth of over 5% in the small Healthcare business.
Operating Margin continues to trend upwards in Europe and Asia Pacific. However, the Americas slipped significantly to be the lowest performing region, due to consolidation of low margin Airgas business. Middle East & Africa improved sharply, partly due to exceptional income.
Excluding energy impact, Europe was slightly down in 2016 while Asia Pacific was flat.
The company remain committed to target synergies from Airgas acquisition of $130m in 2017 (vs $45m in 2016) and $60-65m in following two years. This is initially as cost synergies but later growing revenue synergies.
Also, re-emphasising transition to NEOS, increased annual efficiency target from €250 to €300m p.a. which is equivalent to over 2.5% of cost base.
Air Liquide gases investment appears to be continuing to trend lower in Q4 towards its lowest level in recent years, both in absolute terms and relative to sales. This is after adjustment for the addition of capex in the acquired Airgas business.
Over a third of gross capex in 2016 was in Americas with both Asia-Pacific and Europe each representing just under 30% of spending, and the Middle East & Africa accounting for the remaining 8%
Investment decisions in 2016 down over 8% YoY, even with a boost of just over 10% from including Airgas decisions.
Investment backlog at €2.1bn in Q4, down 9% on end of 2015 and down 25% on end of 2014.
Portfolio of opportunities within in 12 months steady at €2.2bn in Q4. Approximately 33% in China, under 30% in other developing countries, followed by Americas and Europe. Average investment would be €25m and few over €100m, indicating change from recent years.
Air Liquide is no longer able to continue its remaining activities in Ukraine.
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