Air Liquide has stated its “objectives” have been “maintained” in reflection of the group’s business performance for the first half of 2014.
First half 2014 group revenue was €7,506m, an increase versus first half 2013 of +4.8% on a comparable basis, and down slightly (-0.7%) on a reported basis. Similarly, Gas & Services sales, which amounted to €6,807m, grew +4.7% in first half 2014 on a comparable basis and fell slightly (-1.1%) as published.
The currency impact, which has no impact on the business, continues to be unfavorable (-4.2% at the group level for the semester).
On a comparable basis, Gas & Services sales in developing economies rose by +13.9% for first half 2014 and all Gas & Services activities posted growth. Large Industries, up +4.8%, benefited from the start-up of new production units, as well as from higher demand for hydrogen in the United States for the refining sector, the development of the chemical sector in the industrial basins of Antwerp and Rotterdam, and from sustained demand for air gases in both China and the United States.
The resilience of Industrial Merchant, up +3.5%, is illustrated in particular by the higher volumes in developing economies, especially China, the pursuit of a demand-side recovery in Japan (sales on a comparable basis up +9.6%), and the rise in helium and specialty gases sales.
First half 2014 was also marked by robust growth in Electronics (+11.7%), driven by higher equipment and installation sales in the United States, the acquisition of Voltaix, and the success of the ALOHA™ advanced precursor range in the United States and in Asia. Healthcare was up +3.9%, benefiting from the dynamic home healthcare market, in spite of persistent downward pressure on tariffs in Europe, as well as from its expansion in developing economies and the +12.8% increase in hygiene sales posted.
Engineering and Technology sales increased +13.7% on a comparable basis, while the level of new orders reflects the greater selectivity in both internal projects and those involving third-party customers.
The group’s operating margin improved slightly to 16.7% (+10 basis points) thanks in particular to substantial efficiency gains totaling €152m. Despite an increase in the tax rate, net profit (group share) reached €755m, an increase of +5.0% excluding currency and Anios disposal impacts, and of +0.4% on a reported basis. The group’s net debt of € 6,797m, is down slightly compared with June 2013, thanks in particular to greater control over the capital expenditure. The return on capital employed (ROCE) at 11%, excluding the currency impact, will increase as current growth projects ramp up.
Commenting on the first six months of 2014, Benoît Potier, Air Liquide Chairman and CEO, stated, “The group’s performance during the first half was solid and in line with our outlook for the year. This performance benefited from regional sources of growth – the Americas, Asia-Pacific and more globally the developing economies –, as well as from the pick-up in Electronics and the contribution from new unit startups.”
“While the pace of activity in Southern Europe remains modest, it is stabilising. Published results for the period were impacted by an unfavorable currency translation effect. The increase in profit reflects our ability to control our costs and consistently generate substantial efficiencies, which contribute to the regular improvement in our operating margin. The group thus continues to align itself to the market trends to prepare for its growth over the medium term.”
“The investment decisions during the first half of the year reflect the group’s greater selectivity in its projects. The investment backlog amounts to €2.6bn. As with the group-led innovation and technologies initiatives, it will contribute to growth in the next few years.”
“In this context, and barring a degradation of the environment, Air Liquide is confident in its ability to deliver another year of net profit growth in 2014.”