Linde AG's optimisation programmes' growth is mirroring its projected expectations, the company says.

Sales are up 6.9 per cent by the end of March – a 13 per cent improvement in operating profit.

Dr Wolfgang Reitzle, President of the Executive Board of Linde AG, says Linde has made a good start to the year.

He said: \\$quot;We are maintaining a course towards earnings-based growth and are therefore developing programs which will continue to improve efficiency in Linde Gas and Material Handling.\\$quot;

The group says sales and operating profit for 2005 will exceed last year's figures but the increase in earnings will be slightly less.

The group has also confirmed its whole-year forecast for the Material Handling business segment and says it anticipates higher levels of sales and a significant improvement in operating profit.