Air Liquide has released a very pleasing set of financial results for 2008.

The world leader in industrial and medical gases and related services is celebrating after financial statements showed continuing growth, despite the difficult economic conditions.

In 2008, Air Liquide’s revenue grew to €13,103m, an increase of 11%, and operating income reached €1,949m, up 8.6% on the previous year.

Net profit was also up, by 10.8%, standing at €1,220m.

According to Air Liquide, growth throughout the year came principally from new start-ups in Large Industries, solid demand and pricing in Industrial Merchant, resilience in Electronics and sustained growth in Healthcare.

Commenting on 2008 results, Benoît Potier, Chairman and CEO of the Air Liquide Group said, “The 2008 performances demonstrate the Group’s growth dynamism as well as its resilience, notably during the fourth quarter when sales in Gas and Services, supported by volumes and pricing, grew by 7.9% on a comparable basis.”

He added, “As a result of its strategy, Air Liquide has strong structural advantages, including diverse markets, a broad mix of products and applications, and the nature of its long-term contracts. Consequently, 80% of the Group’s revenue today comes either from long-term defensive markets or from products that are mostly unaffected by clinical factors.”

Potier also noted the fact that Air Liquide is now reaping the positive effects of positions recently taken in high-growth regions, plus an increasing number of start-ups and ramp-ups of new production units, which should bring additional sales revenue of €1bn over the period 2009-2010.

He added, “In 2009, our priorities are going to be cash management, increased efforts in cost containment, and greater selectiveness in its investments.”

“Priorities within the ALMA company programme have already been realigned accordingly, notably by raising our cost-savings target to more than €250m in 2009; by strengthening its fundamentals, Air Liquide aims to secure and finance growth in its revenue and net profit in 2009.”

Potier also said that with investment commitments totalling around €7bn over the past three years, Air Liquide has set a solid growth foundation for the coming years.

He commented on the investments the company has made, saying they have been directed primarily towards markets identified as promising and long-term, which will enable Air Liquide, once the effects of the economic slowdown have been absorbed, to pursue its growth rate in line with its medium-term objectives.

At the next Annual General Meeting of Shareholders, Air Liquide’s Board of Directors will propose the payment of a dividend of €2.25 per share.

This level of dividend is unchanged from 2007, though the number of shares outstanding increased by 10%, following the bonus share issue in June 2008.