Increasing its presence and operations in South Eastern Europe, Air Liquide has successfully founded its Serbian subsidiary in Belgrade and signed a new contract to provide its services to Bulgarian company Monbat.

A customer of Air Liquide Bulgaria since January 2005, Monbat manufactures accumulator batteries for various applications and is now developing its business activities in Indjija, close to Belgrade. Air Liquide will supply significant volumes of liquid oxygen and provide related services, with gas deliveries made from the company's sources in the region.

Over the past three years, Serbia has become one of Europe's fastest growing economies and is the most industrialised country in the former-Yugoslavia. These new developments continue Air Liquide's growth in Eastern Europe where, since the end of last year, the company has operated an air separation unit in Romania and is supplying cylinder and liquid gases to a major shipyard in South Eastern Romania. The industrial gases giant is soon to commission its own acetylene production and filling centre in the region too.

Klaus Schmieder, senior executive vice-president of the Air Liquide Group, stated, $quot;We are pleased to expand our activities in the very promising area of South Eastern Europe where we are facing increasing demand in the industrial gases market. This new development reinforces our ability to serve existing and new customers reliably and also reflects the Group's growth strategy to develop our presence in emerging economies.$quot;

The accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the European Union has enabled the logistic supply chain in the region, while Air Liquide Bulgaria is also planning to start-up a new air separation unit with liquid production, close to the capital Sofia by the end of the year.