Linde has significantly increased its sales and operating profit (EBIT) and confirmed its forecast for the whole year for the first half of fiscal 2006.

Group sales increased by 10.7 per cent to €4.991bn. Sales outside Germany rose by 11.9 per cent to €4.011bn, while sales within Germany showed an increase of 6.1 per cent to €980m. Incoming orders of €5.391bn were also higher, 10.4 per cent higher than the prior year figure.

CEO Professor Wolfgang Reitzle, said: 'What's special about this half-year is that we have continued to improve our business operations, while at the same time successfully meeting the additional challenges in the run-up to the proposed acquisition of BOC.

'We are able to confirm our forecast for the whole of the 2006 year. We anticipate that group sales and earnings will again exceed the figures for the previous year.'

Based on comparable prior year figures, Linde's earnings also improved significantly. Group EBIT rose 29.0 per cent in the first six months of the year to €481m and earnings before taxes on income (EBT) increased by 31.8 per cent to €423m. Net income after minority interests of €270m was 32.4 per cent higher than the figure for the same period in 2005. Earnings per share rose as a result to €2.25 (2005: 1.71 euro).

Linde Gas division\\$quot;s sales increased in the first six months of the year by 8.8 per cent to €2.388bn. EBIT rose during the same period by 16.0 per cent to €385m.

Linde Gas achieved significant rates of growth in all the product segments and in all the market regions. In the on-site segment, sales rose 11.6 per cent in comparison with the same period in the previous year to €577m. Sales in the bulk business saw a 10.3 per cent increase to €654m, the cylinder business rose 7.4 per cent to €869m and the healthcare segment grew by 9.8 per cent to €381m.

In the important European market, Linde Gas achieved a 5.9 per cent increase in sales by the end of June to €1.627bn. In Western Europe, the main reason for the increase was high demand in the on-site business, while in Eastern Europe there were very positive trends in the bulk and cylinder businesses. In North America, sales in Linde Gas increased by 11.7 per cent to €468m and in South America by 16.5 per cent to 184m, double-digit rises in sales in both cases. With a leap in sales of 32.1 per cent to €107m, the division again achieved its fastest rate of growth in the Asia/Pacific region.