The Linde Group has achieved double-digit increases in sales and operating profit for the nine months to 30 September 2006, paving the way for sustainable success in the future with its sweeping reorganisation of the past few months.

"We have improved our operations in all areas. We have continued to grow and have become more profitable at the same time," said Professor Wolfgang Reitzle, president of the executive board of Linde AG. "I am very confident that this trend will persist and that we will be able to exploit the huge opportunities for growth and synergies presented by the merger with BOC."

Professor Reitzle also has a positive view of the prospects of the KION Group, which the Linde Group has established as a new umbrella company for its three brands, Linde, STILL and OM, in the field of forklift trucks and warehouse equipment: "In the past few months, this business segment has performed very well. In Europe, we are the undisputed number one and, at the same time, a technological leader. With more than 20,000 employees, the company is extremely well-positioned, irrespective of its future ownership structure."

The Linde Group confirms its previous forecast for the whole year 2006. Group sales and earnings are expected to exceed prior year figures.

On a comparable basis, group sales in the first nine months of the year increased by 15.2 per cent to €7.943bn. This figure includes our interest in BOC with effect from the completion of the acquisition on 5 September 2006. After adjusting for the consolidation of BOC for the first time, group sales in the first nine months of the year rose 8.5 per cent to €7.482bn. Sales outside Germany grew by 17.2 per cent to €6.445bn, while sales in Germany increased by 7.6 per cent to €1.498bn.

Linde also made significant improvements on the earnings side on a comparable basis. Group operating profit (EBIT) rose at the end of September to €778m, or €711m excluding BOC. This represents an increase of 19.9 per cent. Earnings before taxes on income (EBT) rose 41.5 per cent to €730m, while earnings after tax was €451m, 35.4 per cent higher than the prior year figure of €333m. Earnings per share at 30 September were €3.38 euro.

All the divisions contributed to the overall good performance of the group.

Based on stable market conditions, sales in the Linde Gas division in the first nine months of the year rose 7 per cent to €3.571bn. EBIT improved in the same period by 13.9 per cent to €581m.

Linde Gas continued to grow its business in all the product segments and in all the market regions. In the on-site segment, which supplies industrial gases to the customer from plant situated directly on the user's site, sales rose 10.5 per cent compared with the prior year period to €856m, while bulk business saw a 9.1 per cent increase in sales to €988m. The healthcare segment, medical gases business, continued to show solid growth, with a 7.8 per cent rise in sales to €567m, while the cylinder business confirmed the upward trend of the first six months of 2006, with a 6.2 per cent increase in sales to €1.293bn.