In an impressive first-quarter for Praxair Inc, the company reported that its sales rose 22.4% to reach a favourable $2.66bn, compared with $2.18bn during the same period last year, and strong growth was evident in all the major markets and regions – led by South America and Asia.

Praxair noted that it spent $40m acquiring industrial packaged gas businesses in North America and $227m through buying back its own stock. The company said it has spent a total of $838m of its existing $1bn repurchasing program, with net income for the Danbury-based industrial gases distributor rising 153.9% to $307m, compared with $265m during the first
quarter of 2007.

“We had a very strong first quarter. Our results show solid organic sales growth in all our major end markets and geographic regions, led by South America and Asia. We are continuing to see strength in energy markets and emerging economies. Demand for industrial gases for environmental applications is growing. As a result, the size of our project backlog is unprecedented,” commented Chairman and CEO Steve Angel.

“Therefore, we have a positive outlook in a mixed global economy and expect that our results will continue to reflect strong year-over-year growth in sales and earnings.”

The company’s earnings are expected to rise as much as 19% during the second quarter and up to 17% for the full year, on an anticipated sale increase of up to 17% for the full year.