The CEO of Chart Industries, Inc. a leading independent global manufacturer of highly engineered equipment used in the production, storage and end-use of hydrocarbon and industrial gases, has said the company’s balance sheet has never been stronger.

Net income for the fourth quarter of 2009 was $15.5m, or $0.53 per diluted share. This compares with $21.7m, or $0.75 per diluted share, for the fourth quarter of 2008.

Net sales for the fourth quarter of 2009 decreased 31% to $128.9m from $187.5m in the comparable period a year ago.

Gross profit for the fourth quarter of 2009 was $43.9m, or 34% of sales, versus $57.3m, or 31% of sales, in the comparable quarter of 2008.

$quot;Despite the challenging economic environment in 2009, we are pleased with our higher than expected fourth quarter and full year operating performance,$quot; stated Sam Thomas, Chart's Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer.

$quot;Although sales declined significantly, our full year gross profit margin improved to 34% due to our early and aggressive focus on cost reduction initiatives.”

“Additionally, we continued to expand our global footprint by completing three strategic acquisitions, launching a joint manufacturing venture in Saudi Arabia, and building a new industrial gas equipment repair center in Reno, Nevada.$quot;

Mr. Thomas continued, $quot;Our balance sheet has never been stronger. With over $211m in cash, improved liquidity and our demonstrated flexible cost structure, Chart is well positioned to take advantage of the global energy infrastructure build-out and industrial gas growth in rapidly developing economies that is underway again. I'm particularly pleased to report that our backlog has stabilized and order levels have improved, particularly in our Distribution and Storage (D&S) business, for the second sequential quarter.$quot;

Chart said it sees an improving global market in all of its business segments. Order rates have improved over the past two quarters, a trend it expects to continue over the year.
Gross margins for 2010 are forecasted to be down 6% to 8% from 2009 levels, with the second half of the year showing improvement over the first.

Based on the company’s current backlog and order expectations, 2010 net sales are expected to be in the range of $530 to $560m.