Chart Industries has published pleasing results for the fourth quarter and year ended December 31st, but a forecast for the coming year has proved difficult, and a slowing of sales is predicted.

The Cleveland-based manufacturer of equipment used to produce and store hydrocarbon and industrial gases achieved 3% growth in net sales for the fourth quarter in comparison to the same period in the previous year, and a 12% rise in net sales for the full year compared to 2007.

Net sales for the fourth quarter of 2008 were $187.5m, and for the full year, $744.4m.
Net income for the fourth quarter was $21.7m, an increase of 32% compared to the fourth quarter of 2007, and net income for the full year 2008 was $78.9m, in 2007 it was just $44.2m.

Sam Thomas, Chart’s Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer commented on the results, “2008 was an excellent year across all business segments in terms of operating performance and free cash flow generation.”

He added, “I am particularly pleased with our ability to weather unprecedented raw material price voltality and unfavourable currency exchange rates over the course of 2008.”

Whilst reflecting on a positive set of results for 2008, Thomas noted a significant slowing of business in the fourth quarter, and said that the uncertain economic conditions challenge the company’s ability to forecast the second half of 2009.

Based on current backlog, order expectations and cost reduction initiatives, 2009 net sales are expected in a range of $600 to $660m.

Taking a positive approach, Thomas said, “If the current customer destocking that we have experienced over the past four months slows, orders resume to more modest levels, and some capital spending in the energy industry resumes as many of our largest customers have forecast, we expect to be in the mid-to upper range of our guidance.”

“Our management team has managed through difficult business cycles before, and we enter this one in a strong financial and competitive position. I am confident we will come through it even stronger and more successful with new opportunities to resume a strong growth path.”