As part of two major speeches from the industrial gases industry on Day 1 of the GAWDA meeting, Matheson Tri-Gas Chairman, President and CEO Bill Kroll enthused about the prospects ahead for the industry.

Clearly optimistic during difficult times, Kroll explained that while it has been tough over the past year, “there will be light at the end of the tunnel for those who are smartly positioned!”

Kroll was following a speech from the President of Taiyo Nippon Sanso, Mr Hirosuke Matsueda, who was delighted to be standing in front of the distributors and announced the progression that TNSC (parent company of Matheson Tri-Gas) has made over the past few years in the North American Market.

Having just arrived from the inauguration of a new 600 tpd merchant plant in Grimes, Iowa, Matsueda went on to reveal that another new ASU will be completed in San Antonio before the end of the year and this will be the 17th ASU that Matheson Tri-Gas (MTG) owns and operates in the US.

This follows a series of acquisitions made in the US gases market in recent times - including 6 ASUs from Air Liquide in 2004, the acquisition of Linweld in 2006 and then Valley National Gases in 2008. Mr Matsueda wanted to inform the audience that TNSC is not trying to make up the numbers in the top tier of global gas supplies, but actually wants to be considered a serious player in both contribution and size.

He wanted to inform distributors in the US that via its subsidiary MTG, the Japanese company will have a leader in technologies to support its own developments.

Focused on the bounce back
Kroll followed-up by emphasising the importance of addressing the current needs of both the company and the end-users, by stating that it is important for companies to be correctly forecasting their focused markets and having intimate knowledge of these same markets themselves.

Companies should be well into cost restructuring at this time, he continued, and focused on improving operational efficiency in order to be ‘leaner and meaner’ for the bounce back when it comes. Lastly, he pointed out, companies should be proactively managing risk in our industry.

The latter applies in both Europe and in the US, but Kroll went on to give some examples of how, as a responsible player in the US, MTG has had to address matters required by the Department of Homeland Security to ensure chemical safety and security – all of which costs money, at a time when revenues have been squeezed.

He is optimistic though and quoted some figures supplied by analysts that we should be seeing an improvement in the second half of 2009, which will continue into 2010. Citing an example of the opportunities for the gases business, Kroll stated that the current market for LED (lights) was worth $2bn today, but will grow to be a $60bn market in the future.