Performance indicators for the 2009 financial year demonstrate that The Linde Group has been comparatively successful at cushioning the impact of the global financial and economic crisis.

Group sales were €11.211bn, 11.5% down on the previous year figure of €12.663bn. Group operating profit, however, declined at a slower rate.

Linde achieved Group operating profit of €2.385bn, only 6.7% below the previous year figure. The Group operating margin rose as a result to 21.3% (2008: 20.2%).

Earnings before tax (EBT) were €838m, €168m below the previous year figure of €1.006bn. After adjusting for restructuring costs of €83m and the profit on disposal of businesses of €59m achieved in 2008, the decline was only €26m or 2.7%.

Earnings after tax were €653m (2008: €776m). The amount attributable to Linde AG shareholders was €591m (2008: €717m); this corresponds to earnings per share of €3.51 (2008: €4.27).

After adjusting for the effects of the purchase price allocation in the course of the BOC acquisition and the profits on disposal achieved in 2008, earnings per share stood at €4.58 (2008: €5.46). The restructuring costs recognised in 2009 have not been adjusted for here.

Operating cash flow continued the positive trends seen in the previous quarters. It increased significantly by 14.2% to €2.142bn (2008: €1.876bn).

At the same time, Linde succeeded in reducing its net financial debt by over €300 m to €6.119 bn (2008: €6.423 bn).

In the gases division, sales in the 2009 financial year fell by 6.1% to €8.932bn. On a comparable basis, i.e. after adjusting for exchange rate effects, changes in the price of natural gas and changes to group structure, the decline in sales was 5.1%.

The division achieved an operating profit of €2.378bn, only 1.6% below the previous year figure of €2.417bn.

As a result, the operating margin in the gases division improved significantly by 120 basis points to 26.6% (2008: 25.4%).

$quot;We have fared reasonably well in a difficult economic environment,$quot; said Professor Dr Wolfgang Reitzle, Chief Executive Officer of Linde AG.

$quot;We were able to limit the decline in our sales and earnings while at the same time continuing to improve our productivity. Our gases business in particular proved very stable.$quot;