“We are welI on our way and keeping pace”, was the message at a press briefing in Frankfurt, from the Linde Group.

Dr. Wolfgang Reitzle, President and CEO of the group gave a positive assessment of their prospects at the press briefing on Linde’s annual results in Frankfurt am Main, “We anticipate that Group sales and earnings in the current fiscal year 2005 will once again exceed those of the previous year. However, the growth in earnings may be somewhat slower than in 2004.”

Based on Linde’s business performance in the first two months of 2005, Linde believes that it is “on course”. At the end of February, Group sales have increased by 9.3% over the previous year to €1,313 billion and incoming orders had risen 10.4% to €1,544 billion.

By division, Linde Gas achieved an 8% increase, while sales in the Linde Engineering Division “leapt” from €120 million to €163 million. The incoming orders for Engineering also showed a rise of 18.2. In the Material Handling Division, sales increased by 4.3% and incoming orders have risen by 10.4% to €1,544 billion.

At the same time, Dr Reitzle announced further optimisation programs including a follow-up program to TRIM.100, which will enable cost savings and create further synergies between brands. In the Gas division, the company will introduce the Growth and Performance (GAP) program that identifies and exploits new opportunities for growth.

In fiscal 2004, Linde increased Group sales by 4.8% to €9,421 billion, while incoming orders saw a rise of 6.1% to €9,637 billion. Operating profit (EBITA) showed a 14.9% improvement over the previous year to €785 million and net income increased from €108 million to €274 million.

Dr Reitzle also explained that Linde had improved its financial resume, “We have also been successful in our continuing drive to improve our balance sheet structure. In fiscal 2004, we again reduced our financial debt, this time by €462 million to €1,968 billion”. Over a period of three years, Linde has cut its financial debt by €1.5 billion.

Linde reported that all divisions contributed to the overall positive growth of the Group in 2004.

Linde gas improved their sales figures by 4.2% on the previous year to reach €4,003 billion. After adjustments for currency effects the figure was reported as being closer to 7%EBITA rose 7% to €640 million.

Linde Engineering continued to perform well, reporting a 24.5% increase in sales to €1,581 billion. Incoming orders reached 1,525 billion, well above the €1,474 billion in 2003. EBITA also increased to €69 million.

In the Material Handing business segment, Linde benefited from the demand for industrial trucks, achieving a 10.1% increase in sales to €3,372 billion.